The Department of Health and Human Services has rolled out an enhanced version of a public website, mandated under the Accountable Care Act, to aid small businesses and consumers in comparing and purchasing health care coverage.

The website is a precursor to state insurance exchanges mandated to be operational by 2014. HHS initially launched the site in the summer of 2010 with spotty information from insurers in five categories: services covered, physician locator, drug benefits, price estimates and plan contact information.

In October 2010, the site filled those gaps and added monthly premium estimates, annual deductibles and out-of-pocket limits, consumers' share of cost for services, percent of individuals covered in a plan who pay more than the base premium estimate because of their health status, and percent of individuals denied coverage from a plan.

Now, based on data from more than 530 insurers for more than 2,700 plans across all states, the website offers:

— Plan choices for a given ZIP code, sorted by out-of-pocket limits, average cost per enrollee and other factors

— A summary of cost and coverage for small group practices showing available deductions, average cost per enrollee, co-pay options, included and excluded benefits, and benefits available at an additional cost

— Ability to filter plan selections based on eligibility for health savings accounts; prescription, mental health or maternity coverage; and allowance for domestic partner or same sex coverage.

More information is available at healthcare.gov.

Joseph Goedert writes for Insurance Networking News, a SourceMedia publication.

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