The Affordable Healthcare rollout has been a complete disaster in every possible way. The website is complicated and it does not work.
With only six people able to get on the site and sign up for health care plans on the first day, three young men from San Francisco, George Kalogeropoulos, Ning Liang, and Michael Wasser, did what the government has not been able to do: build an easy to use site where people across the country can get quotes and compare different health care plans through the federal exchange.
HealthSherpa.com starts with a screen for the user to put in their zip code. Immediately, available plans pop up on the screen complete with monthly costs. As the user adds family members to be covered the cost of each plan changes. The final piece of information entered is family size and income to change plan costs based on if the user qualifies for any government subsidies.
No personal information is entered, there is no need to register and get an email then log back in to start entering additional information which takes about 30 minutes to complete.
The website developers have emphasized in interviews that their site is only a piece of the pie, not the whole pie. The site does not connect to the government agencies for verification as Healthcare.gov is expected to do, but it is the piece of the pie that most people are interested in at this point.
The site explains its mission as a free guide that makes it easier to find and sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The site only used carefully vetted, publicly available data.
The Health Sherpa is not affiliated with any lobby, trade group or government agency and has no political agenda.
The site goes on to clarify that the information provided here is for research purposes. Make sure to verify premiums and subsidies on your state exchange or healthcare.gov, or directly with the insurance company or an agent.
People want to know what they are looking at paying and what the plan is going to cover. If someone wanted, they could use HealthSherpa.com to locate the plan they are interested in and contact the listed heath insurance company themselves and possibly avoid ever having to use the dysfunctional website.
In less than a week, the site has had almost 200,000 unique visitors and over half a million page views which have caused the developers to continue to tweek the site but the original site was created over three evenings.
The trio decided to create the site after they themselves were looking for health insurance options are were unable to use the government site. Instead on just being frustrated by the experience, they decided to do something productive that could help. Since the data is publically available they decided to compile it in a bare bones way that would be easy for people to use.
“It isn’t a fair apples-to-apples comparison,” Kalogeropoulos told CNN. “Unlike Healthcare.gov, our site doesn’t connect to the IRS, DHS, and various state exchanges and authorities. Furthermore, we’re using the government’s data, so our site is only possible because of the hard work that the Healthcare.gov team has done.”
The name of the site comes from the native people of Nepal who are known to be expert mountaineers and who were extremely helpful to the early explorers to climb Mount Everest as guides. Today the term is used to commonly refer to any mountaineering guide regardless of ethnicity and is used in casual conversation to refer to a valuable assistant, such as in the case of this website.
It is a blinding example of what can be accomplished without the large bureaucracy of the federal government’s involvement and once again brings out questions about the dysfunction of government contracts where a contractors charge the government $435 for a hammer.
One has to wonder if anyone from the Obama administration is looking at the HealthSherpa.com site and is considering contacting George Kalogeropoulos, Ning Liang, and Michael Wasser to help get them out of the mess they have found themselves in.
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