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Find your health plan on Health Sherpa (thehealthsherpa.com)
64 points by songzme on Nov 11, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments

I'm legitimately confused. Is this supposed to compete with or replace healthcare.gov? I just ran an insurance search for a hypothetical Californian couple, late fifties, with an income of $60K. CoveredCalifornia found me plans with a monthly premium of $127/month (including assistance) while the cheapest HealthSherpa premium is $879/month.

Is HealthSherpa really helping or are they just capitalizing on the huge IT/PR snafu that is healthcare.gov?

I mean, isn't it entirely fucked up that HealthSherpa directs me to "Call Western at (888) 227-5942" without knowing that I'm eligible for government assistance?

edit: a word

Did you adjust the Household size to 2? If you've entered 2 people, then make sure you update the household size to 2 as well. If you're in your late 50s, and your household income is $60k living in San Francisco, you can get free or almost-free coverage.

(Yes it's a bad design)

> (Yes it's a bad design)

Exactly my point. This whole site strikes me as programmer hubris.

How does an issue with the GUI indicate hubris?

Programmers live in this weird state of superimposition where things are both, "lol, i could build that in a weekend" and "Your budget is $10K!? You have no idea what's involved in building a website."

I'm familiar with that. ;) In this case, it seems that they did build it pretty quickly. [1] But UX issues can be easy to miss - it's hard to see it fresh.

1. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/11/tech/web/alternate-healthc...

Hmm. I see several subsidized plans offered with similar inputs: http://i.imgur.com/ZJpSGC4.png

Do you have a screenshot of what you're seeing?

Well, now I am even more confused — here is what I see with the same inputs you said you used. You did say that this was a quote for a two-person household with a $60k income, right?


I am pretty sure the subsidy is area dependent too.

I don't think HealthSherpa ingested subsidy data from data.healthcare.gov, just the data provided by insurance companies regarding policies.


I hope you report this problem to them.

What? Why? Is this a bug? It seems like their system is working great. It just gives bad advice.

This immediately got me interested since I am in the middle of subscribing to one of the plans.

Here's some feedback. - First and foremost, your dataset does not seem to be accurate. For my info, CoveredCA gives me only 4 options while your site gives 8! Please update it. [Happy to PM details if you want to investigate] - I like the simplicity of design and responsiveness. Much better UI than CoveredCA. - Instead of Radio Buttons (single selection) for plan type, allow multiple. - For new folks, please include plan details so that they can decide which plan type they want.

Saw this being discussed on the news, congrats on the quick release! The simplicity of your design should put the contractors to shame who tried to build something that ultimately couldn't work properly.

This has been said before on different threads, but the primary issues plaguing healthcare.gov are not comparing premiums or comparing plans, but instead determining eligibility for subsidies, verifying income through state and federal database, and interoperability with the insurers' databases to actually enroll for a plan.

Health Sherpa seems to provide a quick and easy way to compare premiums by region, but lacks detailed information such as deductibles, and specific provider information. Certainly helpful, but by no means a functional replacement for the requirements of healthcare.gov.

(notice clicking "Apply" sends you to the home page of the insurer, and gives a phone number).

Actually, that is one of primary issues plaguing healthcare.gov. The government intentionally changed the requirements to prevent you from browsing the prices of plans. This caused huge amounts of unnecessary traffic on the identity verification process while people were unable to perform even the first step of shopping.

The current system actually contains this information, and probably had a nice view of it, but the misguided people in charge don't want us to see it, despite it all being nicely available in JSON at data.healthcare.gov.

Window shopping was restored a month ago, and a few weeks after the rollout. [1]

I would not consider that to be a problem still plaguing the site, as poor of a decision as it may have been originally.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/11/w...

Nice. Fast and simple.

Maybe add age on the first page with zip code.

I'd love for it to have a glossary. Coinsurance? HSA? PPO? Copay? Catastrophic?

Great job guys! Saw the CBS report that really complimented your efforts. I think that this is ANOTHER GREAT EXAMPLE of how tech can quickly iterate to solve real-world problems. It doesn't take millions of dollars to build viable real-world solutions

It's a nice example of an interface, and a handy initial resource, but the the features/tech of this site are in no way comparable to the healthcare.gov site as mentioned in another comment.

The purpose of this lite-app is not to replace a heavy app. The original purpose was to allow you to do something quickly (1 vs 16 clicks) to generate some momentum to knowing what your choices are. If you can understand the lanscape with 92% less work, that allows you to leverage your 92% savings to deal with the brain damage of actually using the tool that is <not being replicated in full>. So, as a complement and not a substitute conintually raising this disction is not adding any value other than noise.

I absolutely agree with you.

I'm responding to the majority of press this things is getting comparing the two: "Look how broken and inefficient the government site building process is when three guys can build a slick competitor in days."

Developers who built this app: Michael Wasser, Ning Liang, George Kalogeropoulos http://www.thehealthsherpa.com/about

I have a question as I am not from the US and this whole Healthcare.org debacle passed me by. What was the issue exactly leading to this upscream?

A lot of things coming together. The federal government had hoped the states would roll out healt care exchanges. Lots of states refused, so the federal government had to put up an exchange themselves.

Big IT projects done by big organisations in a rush rarely go well.

I'm not from the USA either, so take your pinch of salt.

You need a guide to navigate America's byzantine health system. Unfortunately, this sherpa might not be the one.

Good stuff! Agree it's super simple. Can you monetize via referral fees from these links?

No results for zipcode 63122.

does it work for all states ? I tried Virginia no result came..

Just FYI since most people don't know this: "Sherpa" is not a obscure word for "porter" in Tibetan or Nepali as many people seem to think. It's the name of a very small group of once Nomadic people (an large extended family, almost) living on the Nepal/Tibet border.

When you hear a climber say "I hired two Sherpas to help me port supplies up the North Col" it's almost akin to saying "I hired two chinamen to help me lug these boxes around." How well do you think that would go off in civilized society? It only almost-kinda-sortof makes sense in the highest regions of the Himalayas as Sherpas apparently have genetic adaptations that make them superhuman climbers at that altitude so you might want to clarify "The climbers I hired were Sherpa, specifically."

I'm not really sure at all why you chose "Health Sherpa" as a name (what's the connection?). Just FYI, you're productizing the name of a people.

Hm, the connotation I have for "Sherpa" is as much "guide" as it is "porter." Of course, I'm not a mountain climber nor do I follow it, so perhaps there's a difference in usage between that community and non-climbers.

Is it a derogatory term for those people? If not, what's the problem?

The point is it is not nice to appropriate someone else's name for use in your product. Sherpa isn't just the name of the people, it's their family name, as in John Q. Sherpa. I would find it offensive if someone did that to me, although whether it is offensive is only something Sherpas have the right to decide. But that's kinda the point - did the OP ask permission to use their name?

Sherpa's are famous for being guides on high-altitude mountaineering expeditions. They also have unique physcial capabilities up to ~8000 meters. This means they can typically "punch above their weight" on many challenging tasks. They need not be confused with PORTER, which is actually a job title. Porters and sherpa's also have distinct reputations, even by ethnicity. See, for example: Pakistani HAPs (high altitude porters) used on K2 and the Karakoram.[0,1] Colloquially, to 'sherpa' something means to carry a burden one would consider more than reasonable. It has its own meaning in English speaking countries, because the british (& english speaking commenwealth countries) have a history of mountaineering in the region, dating back to the early 20th century.

[0] eg The Sherpas and Pakistani high-altitude porters (HAPs) started to prepare fixed lines upwards before midnight.

[1] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sherpa [not pejorative]

Verb. sherpa (third-person singular simple present sherpas, present participle sherpaing, simple past and past participle sherpaed)

    (rare) To serve as a guide or porter for another.

It's not really a family name, it's more like what you would call a clan (actually a step above that, but not quite an ethnic group). It's also a point of pride to have that name (over the past couple generations Tenzin Norgay made it famous), which is probably why it became so popular among Nepalis (well, that combined with the lack of literacy and government record-keeping). Edit: Oh yeah, Nepali Sherpas would probably get a kick out of it, but that's about it.

There's a CI tool called Jenkins. I'm not sure if they surveyed everyone with that surname before naming the tool. Are you saying they should have?

Let's not forget Jeeves!

"Chinaman" has a more negative connotation. I think "Sherpa" is more comparable to saying "I hired two Aussies to help me lug these boxes around."

It's closer to "I hired two Koori to help me lug these boxes around."

Has the word "sherpa" ever been used in a negative context?

Everyone I know looks upon the sherpas with a sense of awe and respect.

My thought exactly, but maybe it has a negative conotation in some cultures? It was an honest question.

I'd agree with that. I've racked my brain to see if I can ever remember a negative context, and I can't. See also Gurkha.

Racially grouped awe is a sort of racism ("black people are such good dancers!" <- racist).

Depends on your definition of "Sherpa".

I am pretty sure a very VERY large percentage of people[1] consider the "Sherpas" to be "The badass people who guide tourists up everest" with little consideration (or knowledge) of the group as a distinct ethnicity.

Personally that is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word "Sherpa"

[1] yea yea, citation needed, I have none, anecdotal evidence..

No, but that wasn't my implication. Read it again.

I'm from Kathmandu, Nepal. My first thought after seeing the HealthSherpa name was this must be a website of a health foundation somewhere which provides health services and facilities to Sherpa families in Himalayan Region. For 30M Nepalese + NRNs worldwide the word Sherpa reflects the respected guides in Mountain Expeditions.

NRNs: Non Resident Nepalese.

Give it a try

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