|Published:||Oct 24, 2013 6:21 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Oct 24, 2013 6:21 PM EDT|
LEE COUNTY, FLa.-As people search for help navigating the federal health care website, WINK News is uncovering new problems that could hit you in your wallet. Depending on your age, the online estimates for monthly premiums could be off, in some cases, by hundreds of dollars.
The Obama administration announced it would provide a new "shop and browse" feature on Sunday, but it's not giving consumers the real picture about the plans that are available.
The website does not ask for your birthday or age, and instead lumps you 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, and in the "50 or older group," prices are based on what a 50 year old would pay.
WINK News tested the numbers for a 48 year old living in Lee County, using the BlueCare Everyday Health 1485 plan. According to healthcare.gov, that person would pay $303.68 a month. The actual plan on the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida website is $473.78.
The difference is Blue Cross/Blue Shield requests your birthday before providing more accurate estimates.
We also tested the other age group. For a 62 year old, living in Lee County, without tax breaks, you might expect to pay $517.53 if you're going by the estimate on healthcare.gov. The actual price, according to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida website is $832.51.
Industry executives call the estimates troubling. They point out the website is complete with how estimates could be lower but it doesn't make any mention of how the estimates could actually be more expensive.
This latest problem comes as Congress held its first hearing on the website's launch.
Lack of testing was the main thread emerging from Thursday's hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
But questions were also raised about a decision by the administration to not allow window shopping, as e-commerce sites generally do. Requiring consumers to open accounts and calculate subsidies before they could shop greatly increased the volume of traffic. That precipitated the crash of an accounts registration feature that became an early bottleneck. The site is now allowing limited window shopping.
The contractors said they each tested their own components independently but that the Health and Human Services Department was responsible for testing the whole system from end to end. That kind of testing didn't happen until the last couple of weeks before the system's Oct. 1 launch.
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