Missed Opportunities

Research examines why states with standardized benefit policies have fallen short in simplifying the marketplace shopping experience, despite backing of the policy from both insurers and consumers.

The Issue

While standardized benefit design is already happening in some states that operate their own marketplaces, consumer-friendly comparison shopping is often not.

Key Findings

The researchers found that the most common issues are:

  • Website-based—for example, consumers do not have the ability to sort or filter by plans with standardized benefits.

  • Display—some states have done little to learn how best to display and communicate about the standardized plans and their benefits in a way that's easily understandable by consumers.

  • Too many options—many insurers offer multiple nonstandardized plans, which may confuse consumers.


The authors offer steps the federal insurance marketplace can take to avoid the missteps made by state-run marketplaces, including: limit the number of plans insurers offer to consumers; improve the websites’ consumer-friendliness; and deploy more tools to help consumers sort and filter their plan choice, enabling simple plan comparisons.

About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Visit the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center for more information specific to its staff and its recent research.