Durbin: Consumers Deserve Clear, Concise Information About Their Health Care Costs

Senator says insurers shouldn't bury out-of-pocket cost information in textbooks worth of fine print

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – As additional consumer-oriented provisions of the landmark health care reform law continue to be implemented, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today applauded a new federal rule that will help Illinoisans and all Americans better understand their out-of-pocket health care costs, make better health insurance choices, and prevent after-the-fact sticker-shock. The rule requires insurers to provide a clear, concise summary of a plan’s benefits and coverage costs as well a simple glossary of terms to consumers prior to enrollment and periodically during coverage.

“For far too long, health insurance providers have operated outside the bounds of effective free market forces, with too little transparency or competition,” Durbin said.  “For the first time, all insurers will provide consumers with upfront, easy to read cost, coverage, and limitation information instead of confusing jargon. Thanks to this rule, Illinoisans and all Americans will finally have the information they deserve to choose a plan—with a fair price—that’s there when they need it.”

Current cost and coverage disclosure is often intricate and difficult to read, making effective plan comparison difficult or impossible. The new summary of benefits and coverage, or SBC, will also include a standardized plan comparison tool, like the nutritional information box on packaged foods, to help consumers make informed decisions about their coverage. The comparison tool will include examples that describe included coverage and out-of-pocket costs for common events like having a baby or managing diabetes. Consumers will be able to use the examples to compare what they would have to pay under each insurance plan they are considering. A sample SBC is attached.

Durbin’s push for increased transparency is not isolated to the health insurance sector. Last year, he spearheaded an effort to bring transparency and competition another group that tries to play by a different set of rules: big banks. In November, Durbin was joined by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in calling on the nation’s financial institutions to voluntarily adopt a bank account fee disclosure form (sample here) designed to make checking account terms and fees easy for consumers to understand—a call which was answered by the nation’s largest bank, Chase Bank, and several others.