Consumer groups cheer arrival of online health insurance menu

Using the new Web tool, consumers can tap information on more than 5,500 private plans sponsored by more than 1,000 insurers nationwide, Sebelius said. Additionally, every plan under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program is listed. New high-risk plans targeting those with pre-existing conditions, which HHS launched Thursday, are included as well.

Jenny Sullivan, senior health policy analyst at Families USA, a consumer group, said the tool is "pretty phenomenal."

"You're about three clicks away from personalized coverage," she said.

The new website also includes information about coming provisions of the health reform law. Consumers searching for individual private plans, for example, will find a warning that "the current marketplace creates several challenges for the consumer." Another click indicates that, beginning in 2014, "these same plans won't be able to turn down anyone who has a pre-existing condition" — a stipulation of the Democrats' legislation.

Asked Thursday if certain elements of the website are political, Sebelius defended the tool, saying it's simply designed to provide consumers with information. "It's factually correct," she said.

Sebelius also tried to mitigate privacy concerns surrounding the new website.

"We are not collecting or storing information; we are not selling anything to anyone," she said. "There is no capacity or interest."


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