Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed some new rules that will allow people to easily compare plans when shopping for health insurance. Good news! The Obama administration has been fairly proactive in working to make information more accessible and easier for people to understand, often through thoughtful design. So I went over to the HHS web site to get some details about the new form, and have a look at it. After all, I'm sure they'd want to aggressively promote this, right? Not so much.
When you go to the web site, you have to root around for a while to find a link to anything about this new initiative. And that link takes you to...a press release. Now let's compare that to a very similar initiative by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has proposed new mortgage disclosure forms to allow people to understand what they're getting when they apply for a mortgage. First is the page at HHS about the Department's effort, and then we'll see the page at CFPB about their effort:
The CFPB's site is simple, clear, and obviously geared to being used by actual humans. HHS, on the other hand, doesn't seem very interested in having the public look at this. But what about the actual forms? If you read the whole press release, you'll find a link to a form, which looks like it was slapped together on a 15-year-old Compaq PC running WordPerfect, printed out on an imagewriter, then scanned into a pdf. Compare that to one of the sample forms the CFPB has proposed:
I'm sure that the folks at HHS would say, "Well, this is just an early draft." But there's no reason why they couldn't take that early draft and put some more thought into both its design and how people are going to access it. I'm sure they have a few people who could help with that -- we're talking about an agency whose budget for this year is $900 billion. And remember: the whole point of this effort is to give the public information that can be better understood and utilized. Sheesh.