Insurer websites spend millions for top Google spots on searches like "ACA"

Under the impression they're choosing comprehensive health coverage, more consumers are purchasing "skimpy" health plans due to misleading websites, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Five things to know:

1. Insurance-quote websites are spending millions of dollars to come in as the top Google searches for keywords like "Obamacare plans" and "ACA insurance." Ads for these sites are aimed at getting clicks and often use "Healthcare.gov" in hyperlinked text, ultimately leading to a homepage with ACA-like phrasing.

2. However, these websites hand off consumer information to brokers, who might sell comprehensive health plans, but often mislead consumers into buying skimpier health plans that may not cover the ACA's "essential benefits" like pregnancy, mental health services and prescription drug coverage, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

3. While these types of lead-generation sites aren't new, since the Trump administration expanded short-term health plans in 2018, they've become a larger concern for consumers who may be misled into choosing a short-term plan that isn't intended as a long-term, primary health insurance plan.

4. Proponents of the short-term health plans argue they should be available for consumers who don't wish to purchase all the parts folded into ACA-compliant plans, such as maternity and mental health coverage. Still, these plans often leave out coverage for preexisting conditions, which may surprise some consumers.

5. Dania Palanker, assistant research professor at Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that lead-generation websites may be purposefully making their ads hard to tell apart from government websites.

"There are websites that are designed to confuse people — or at least they seem designed to confuse," she said.

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