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HealthCare.gov Pricing Feature Can Be Off The Mark

6:05 PM, Oct 23, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS News) CBS News has uncovered a pricing problem with HealthCare.gov. It stems from President Barack Obama's administration's efforts to improve its health care website. A new online feature can underestimate the cost of insurance.

As President Obama promises to fix HealthCare.gov, his administration is touting what it calls "improvements" in design, specifically a feature that allows you to "See Plans Now." White House press secretary Jay Carney has said, "Americans across the country can type in their zip code and shop and browse."

But CBS News has learned the new "shop and browse" feature often comes with the wrong price tags.

Industry analysts point to how the website lumps people only into two broad categories: "49 or under" and "50 or older."

Prices for everyone in the 49-or-under group are based on what a 27-year-old would pay. In the 50-or-older group, prices are based on what a 50-year-old would pay.

CBS News ran the numbers for a 48-year-old in Charlotte, N.C., ineligible for subsidies. According to HealthCare.gov, she would pay $231 a month, but the actual plan on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina's website costs $360, more than 50 percent higher. The difference: Blue Cross and Blue Shield requests your birthday before providing more accurate estimates.

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said the government added the "shop and browse" feature to provide "estimates of premiums without tax credits."

CBS News said industry executives it spoke with could not believe the government is providing these estimates. They said it can easily mislead customers.

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