Is it Fair to Compare Healthcare.gov With Amazon.com?

Acknowledging that one way to assess Healthcare.gov’s progress is to compare its performance to commercial websites, Jonathan Cohn provides “two very important caveats”:

One is an acknowledgment of the huge, fundamental difference between what the two types of systems must do. Innovative companies like Amazon are … still engaging consumers, producers and retailers in a series of relatively straightforward transactions. And they are using technology that, for the most part, has been around for a long time.”

“Healthcare.gov, by contrast, must perform a whole series of complex transactions [and] communicate with multiple government agencies, at both the federal and state levels, as well as private insurers.”

Two: “If we’re going to compare the process of buying health insurance at healthcare.gov to the process of buying books at Amazon, we should also compare it to the process of buying health insurance before Obamacare came along … Without the law’s requirements on essential health benefits and simple use of metal tiers to describe plan generosity, there was always the risk of buying plans with major gaps in coverage—the kind that only relatively sophisticated consumers understood to check.”

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