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Chicago-Based Website Helps Individuals Buy Health Insurance

Chicago-Based Website Helps Individuals Buy Health Insurance

By Leigh Page

GoHealth is a Chicago-based website that people can access if they can’t get group coverage through their employer. It bills itself as the easiest way to purchase health insurance on the individual market.

Navigating the individual market can be confusing. There are dozens of different policies offered in the Chicago area by a variety of companies. You have to choose the amount of deductible you’ll pay before your coverage kicks in as well as consider limitations on use of brand-name drugs and the amount of access you’ll have to certain doctors and hospitals, among other equally important things.

GoHealth streamlines the selection process by putting all the policies on its website so that people can compare policies side by side and then buy one. Before sealing the deal, enrollees discuss their choice one-on-one with a broker. “We take a lot of the process out of consumers’ hands,” said Shane Cruz, chief technology officer at GoHealth.

Chicago is one of many markets across the county in which GoHealth operates. Cruz said the company does not charge for the service; instead, it gets paid by the insurers.

If you’re thinking this arrangement sounds a lot like Healthcare.gov, the federal website that famously crashed when launched last fall, you’re at least partly right. GoHealth uses basically the same approach as the federal site, which operates health insurance exchanges in Illinois and other states under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

But unlike Healthcare.gov, Cruz said GoHealth has functioned smoothly for 10 years. In fact, it was a federally sanctioned alternative to Healthcare.gov and was already enrolling many people for the exchange when they couldn’t use the federal site.

Also, GoHealth includes many individual policies not listed on the exchange that

are available to people who don’t qualify for exchange subsidies. Many of these people had not bought insurance before but are now required to do so under the new law.

Now that enrollment for 2014 has ended, GoHealth has been monitoring how many enrollees actually went ahead and paid their premiums, which is an indicator of how well the company guided people through the process. Cruz said he does not have solid numbers yet, but “…we’ve had a very high success rate…,” much better than Healthcare.gov.

Published on Thursday, June 12, 2014

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