Mark Pryor makes the health insurance exchanges a bit more like Amazon.com
Backed by a 98 to 0 vote, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) just passed a small amendment that might make a big difference in insurance markets. Pryor's amendment directs "the Department of Health and Human Services [to] establish, gather and post online consumer feedback about the health care plans offered through the proposed health care exchange."
People like to talk about "disruptive technological innovation," and they tend to mean something really major. Steam-powered engines, for instance. But the ubiquity of online product reviews has been among the most important market innovations in recent years. A customer buying a movie on Amazon has a lot more information than one browsing in Wal-Mart. But there's no real equivalent in the health insurance market, despite the fact that the quality of your insurance is a lot more important than the quality of “Underworld 2: Rise of the Lycans.” Comparing a PPO from Aetna and a PPO from Cigna is basically impossible for the average consumer.
Pryor's amendment establishes consumer reviews for the health-care products in the exchange. This is good not just because it gives consumers information, but because it threatens insurance companies. An insurer with low ratings will lose potential customers, not to mention face hard questions from the administrators of the exchanges. It's the sort of thing that could make the exchanges substantially superior to the rest of the insurance market, though it's hard to say how much that'll matter if they remain locked to all but 10 percent of the population.
Photo credit: By Chip Somodevilla/Associated Press
December 7, 2009; 4:37 PM ET
Categories: Health Reform
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