Four-star review Michigan,Montana, and New Hampshire were added to the star rating system forthe 2019 open enrollment period, but now HealthCare.gov willdisplay ratings for the whole country. (Image:Shutterstock)

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced last week that its 5-star qualityrating system, which it used in a pilot program in Virginia andWisconsin during 2017 and 2018’s open enrollment periods, will beexpanded to the whole of the health insurance exchanges.

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Starting with the 2020 plan year, exchanges will have to displaystar ratings (already used on Medicare plans), which rate plans on how wellthey perform in 3 categories: member experience, medical care andplan administration.

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Related: 5 best, 5 worst states for healthcare

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“Knowledge is power, and for the first time, consumers will haveaccess to meaningful, simple-to-use information to compare thequality, along with the price, of health plans on Exchangewebsites, including HealthCare.gov,” said CMS Administrator SeemaVerma in a statement. “This addresses our strongly heldcommitment to equip consumers with the tools they need to find thebest choice possible. Increasing transparency and competition drivebetter quality and cost, with consumers benefiting the most.”

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Michigan, Montana, and New Hampshire were added to the starrating system for the 2019 open enrollment period, but nowHealthCare.gov will display ratings for the whole country, as wellas indicating if an individual plan has not been rated. It warnsthat just because a plan has not been rated does not mean it has abad rating.

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Plan issuers that provided coverage during the previous planyear and the current year that have more than 500 enrollees will berequired to submit data on 38 quality measures (28 clinical,assessing quality of care, and 10 survey, assessing enrollees’experience with the plan) to CMS.

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The open enrollment period for 2020 runs from November 1, 2019to December 15, 2019. In addition, the agency says it is makingstar ratings and quality measure level data from the 2019 plan yearavailable in a public use file for the use of “the public,researchers, agents, brokers, states, health issuers, and consumergroups to allow them to use and analyze the data.” It will alsorelease the star ratings data for the 2020 plan year closer to openenrollment.

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The public use file, says CMS, “’includes underlying measuredata as well as star ratings for all issuers, operating in allexchange types that were eligible to receive star ratings for thespecified plan year.”

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While the data are primarily intended for researchers, it isalso accessible by other entities, including the general public, asthey seek additional information on plans available on theexchanges.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.