A first-ever U.S. News analysis of nearly 6,000 health insurance plans marketed to individuals and families reveals that many of the consumers who enroll in these plans may confront budget-wrecking out-of-pocket costs that deplete their savings. Large numbers of plans severely limit coverage for such services as prescription drugs, maternity coverage, mental health treatment, and rehabilitation therapy. To help consumers make more informed choices, U.S. News today launched Best Health Insurance Plans, an interactive consumer tool, to help those who are not covered by an employer or a government plan find a health plan that best meets their individual or family needs.
Each of the plans in the U.S. News database was scored and assigned a rating of one to five stars; plans available to both individuals and families were rated separately for each. A plan’s score depended on completeness of coverage in as many as two dozen benefit categories and subcategories—hospitalization, outpatient surgery, name-brand prescription drugs, and emergency room visits are just a few examples—and how much of the cost consumers have to pay. A one-star plan may cover a limited set of services, a broader array of services but less of their cost, or both. A five-star plan provides a larger, thicker security blanket.