Fox News misleadingly compared the Affordable Care Act's HealthCare.gov to private website HealthSherpa.com, despite the fact that the programmers previously explained to Fox this was not an “apples to apples comparison.”
In response to the troubled rollout of the federal HealthCare.gov, three private programmers recently created HeatlhSherpa.com, a site which shows some health insurance plans available through the new health care law's exchanges, based on a person's zip code, income, and family size. The site does not allow users to purchase insurance, does not verify citizenship, and can only estimate tax breaks and subsidies that users might be eligible for, all functions of the HealthCare.gov website that make purchasing an insurance policy possible.
On the November 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck ignored many of these differences in the websites' functionality to claim HealthSherpa.com was a “working healthcare website” and implied it was a preferable alternative to the “failed HealthCare.gov website.” Hasselbeck interviewed Michael Wasser, one of the founders of HealthSherpa.com, who explained some of the functional differences between his site and the federal health care website:
WASSER: I think the HealthCare.gov was focused on providing an interface for everybody, multiple languages, actually signing up for the health insurance plans directly on the website. There is a much larger feature set that theirs looked at. We were really focused on reviewing plan data and giving simple instructions on how to sign up for those plans directly through the insurer.
But this is not the first time one of HealthSherpa.com's programmers have explained this faulty comparison to Fox. On the November 13 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney also described HealthSherpa.com as “a working alternative website” to HealthCare.gov, but was quickly corrected by one of the website's programmers, George Kalogeropoulos:
KALOGEROPOULOS: It's not really a fair apples to apples comparison to compare HealthSherpa.com to HealthCare.gov, and that's because the government website talks to the IRS for your tax status, talks to Homeland Security for immigration status, and it talks to the states. All we do is show you prices. So we say where are you, and then show you what's available and what it costs. So it's a much more limited goal.
[T]he team at HealthCare.gov is extraordinarily competent technically, I'm sure they could have done what we did, what we did technically speaking is not that complicated.
In a November 11 article, CNN's Doug Gross further explained why “it's not fair to compare the creation of Health Sherpa to the rollout of the more complicated government ACA site”:
Of course, it's not fair to compare the creation of Health Sherpa to the rollout of the more complicated government ACA site, which everyone from President Obama on down has acknowledged as a horribly botched affair.
For one, you can't actually use Heath Sherpa to sign up for coverage. The site states that it's for research purposes only, and that users must verify the premiums and subsidies they find there with state health care exchanges, insurance companies or on HealthCare.gov itself.