WASHINGTON — Starting on Sunday, health care consumers shopping on the Affordable Care Act’s federal website, HealthCare.gov, can see the cost and benefits of insurance plans for 2016, the Obama administration said Friday. But they will have to wait a little longer for new features that will allow them to search for plans that cover specific doctors and prescription drugs, administration officials said.
“The consumer experience this year will be easier and faster,” said Andrew M. Slavitt, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, unveiling a website that has been overhauled and improved. “The response time will be 40 percent faster than last year.”
Administration officials gave journalists a preview of the new website on Friday. Consumers can begin “window shopping” for health plan options on Sunday. Actual purchasing of plans begins Nov. 1, the first day of open enrollment.
The website, the main entry point for people seeking insurance in 38 states served by the federal exchange, includes three major new features.
One, which will be ready on Sunday, allows consumers to see an estimate of total yearly costs for each health plan, based on factors like their age, sex, income, ZIP code and how much health care they expect to use.
A second feature will allow people to enter the names of doctors and hospitals and get back a list of health plans that cover those providers. In the last two years, consumers had to visit the website of each insurer to see which doctors and hospitals were in its network, a task that could be laborious and time-consuming.
A third new feature will allow people to find health plans that cover their prescription drugs.
Kevin J. Counihan, the chief executive of the federal insurance marketplace, could not say when the doctor and drug search tools would be available, beyond promising that it would be soon. The government and insurers are still testing the tools.
Insurers were supposed to provide the government with data on their doctors, hospitals and drugs by Oct. 1, but much of the information has not been submitted in the proper format or checked for accuracy, officials said.
“In an ideal world, we would have gotten 100 percent of the data and have it validated, and we would be ready to go right this second,” Lori Lodes, a spokeswoman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Friday. “But we have a little over half of the data validated, and that needs to be better.”
Mr. Counihan added: “This is new technology for everybody. We don’t want to introduce anything that is not fully working.”
Federal officials said it would be a challenge to sign up more people for coverage through the exchanges because many of those with the greatest need and desire for insurance already have it.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said last week that she expected 10 million people to be enrolled through the federal and state exchanges at the end of next year. Some outside experts described that as a surprisingly modest goal. About 9.9 million people were enrolled through the exchanges at the end of June.
The open enrollment period ends Jan. 31. The administration is aiming to sign up more than one of every four uninsured consumers eligible for coverage through the marketplaces. People who already have coverage can renew it or pick different plans.
The government and insurers have encountered several difficulties trying to create a comprehensive database listing the thousands of doctors, hospitals and drugs covered by health plans around the country.
Federal officials said, for example, that a health plan might cover the services of a doctor practicing at one location, but not the services of the same doctor practicing at a different location.
In response to a consumer’s search request, for example, the new website will indicate whether a doctor is “covered” or “not covered” by a particular health plan. In testing this feature of the website, insurers sometimes found that the information was inaccurate.
Such inaccuracies could have serious consequences for consumers, who might pick a health plan in the belief that it included their doctor, only to find that they were responsible for most or all of the costs because the doctor was not in the network of that health plan.
Another technical difficulty results from the fact that hospital systems in many states have been buying doctors’ practices in recent years, turning the doctors into hospital employees. In some cases, insurers said, the names of these doctors do not show up in provider directories, so consumers could be misled.
Federal officials said they hoped to have problems with the provider-search feature of the website fixed within a week.