Nationwide Survey of New Health Exchanges Shows How to Lower Costs for Consumers

States Should Act to Create New Insurance Marketplaces

NCPIRG Education Fund

Washington, D.C.  – Many states are creating health exchanges to deliver better value for consumers, and other states should follow their lead, according to Making the Grade, a new report by consumer group U.S. PIRG.  Health exchanges are competitive marketplaces that can empower individuals and small businesses with better, more affordable options for coverage.  Under the federal health reform law, each state will have an exchange up and running in 2014.

“After the passage of federal reform, many states are working to create these new marketplaces,” said U.S. PIRG Policy Analyst Michael Russo.  “With several strong examples already out there for how to create a pro-consumer exchange, leaders in the rest of the states need to take action.”

The report closely examines the exchanges that have so far been set up by states and rates them according to how accountable they will be to consumers and the public, how much they can do to lower premiums and improve the quality of care, how friendly they will be to consumers, and how stable they will be.

“Not all exchanges are created equal,” continued Russo.  “That’s why we ranked state exchanges according to the criteria that will matter most to consumers, including whether the exchange will be protected from insurance industry influence, and if it will negotiate with insurers for better rates.”

Some of the most important policies to consider to make state exchanges strong include:

 Giving it the power to leverage enrollee’s buying power to negotiate with insurers for higher-value, more affordable coverage.

Barring insurers and other industry representatives from serving on the exchange board, so it will be more accountable to the public and to consumers.

Making sure consumers will have an easier time shopping for coverage through easy-to-use tools and comparisons between plans.

“Many states have made a strong start on creating a pro-consumer exchange,” concluded Russo.  “States that have yet to take action should follow those examples – and those that have created an exchange should keep working to improve them to deliver an even better deal for consumers.”

The report is available online