Online health-care plan comparison tool released

The Kaiser Family Foundation introduced a new feature of its Health08.org Web site on Tuesday that allows users to conduct side-by-side comparisons of the various presidential candidates’ health-care proposals.

The comparison tool, jointly created by Health Policy Alternatives, Inc., includes information gathered from candidates’ Web sites, press releases, news reports, speeches and campaign debates, according  to the site.

“Voters have identified health care as the leading domestic issue for the government to address and for the candidates to discuss in the 2008 campaign,” the introduction reads. “In particular, voters would like to hear the candidates’ positions on reducing the cost of health care and health insurance and expanding coverage to the 47 million uninsured Americans.”

Information available on the site will be updated regularly as the campaign continues.

Categories for comparison:

The new, interactive and user-friendly tool presents summaries of up to four candidates’ health-care plans based on four categories for reform:

  1.  Access to health care coverage
  2. Cost containment
  3. Improvinng the quality of care
  4. Financing

How does it work?

Users of the new tool will find thumbnail-sized photographs of all the candidates, accompanied by adjacent check-boxes, which allow the user to select a particular candidate for comparison. Upon selecting up to four and clicking “compare” (an example), users are directed to a separate page containing a side-by-side comparison table that is easy to read and understand, and cites the sources for its information.

Advantages

  • This is a great tool if health care is your No. 1 concern, and you are trying to decide between a few favored candidates
  • It’s also helpful if you don’t understand the exact differences in two candidates’ seemingly similar plans
    • For example, while both Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) call for universal health care, their proposed plans are actually quite different, and this tool illustrates the nuances well
  • Users can see whether candidates do not have a provision for certain aspects of health care, or if they have not yet unveiled their plans at all

Disadvantages

  • Users cannot always tell from the information provided by the comparison tool whether or how a certain plan would apply to them personally
  • The tool only summarizes health-care plans; this may be the top domestic issue to voters, but there exist many more issues voters should consider when making their election-day decisions — not just health care
  • The comparison table does not give full explanations of each comparison issue; for example, the average reader is not likely to know what “Creation of insurance pooling mechanisms” means (and neither can I find out with a quick Google search)

Overall

Worth a look, especially if you are particularly interested in health-care reform. It’s a good, interactive tool that will certainly help voters on the health-care issue, but they should make sure to research all the other election issues, as well.

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