Shopping on Cost and Quality…

Last week, Covered California became one of the first health insurance marketplaces in the country to start including quality ratings for consumers to use. This is another new tool for consumers, announced on the day President Obama is expected to highlight the range of new options and benefits under the federal health law.

Covered California has allowed consumers to make better choices, including standardizing benefits, allowing apples-to-apples comparisons, and fostering direct price competition–and quality ratings are the next important step. Quality ratings are essential to fulfill the promise of the law, to make insurers compete not on avoiding sick people but on cost and quality.

As reported by Anna Gorman at Kaiser Health News, Covered California was going to delay including these ratings, but consumer advocates successfully urged the board to reconsider.  As indicated by Chris Cadelago of the Sacramento Bee, we were pleased that the initial ratings shows a range to make some meaningful distinctions between plans.

While the quality data can always be improved, that’s no excuse for not providing consumers with some basic information now as they make these significant purchasing decisions. These ratings are not just a tool for consumers, they are a signal to insurers that future negotiations will take into account not just cost of the premium but the quality of the customer experience.

We are pleased California is taking that first step.