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CBS News: Obamacare Website Provides "Incredibly Misleading" Estimates To Consumers

JAN CRAWFORD, CBS THIS MORNING: Norah, Charlie, the administration announced it would provide this new "shop and browse" feature on Sunday but it's not giving consumers the real picture about the plans that are available... because in some cases people could end up paying double of what they see on the website.

PRESIDENT OBAMA (VIDEO): "The website has not worked as smoothly as it was supposed to..."

As President Obama promises to fix Healthcare-dot-gov, his administration is touting what it calls "improvements" in design-- specifically a feature that allows you to "SEE PLANS NOW."

JAY CARNEY (VIDEO): "Americans across the country can type in their zip code and shop and browse."

But CBS News has learned the new "shop and browse" feature often comes with the wrong price tags.

JONATHAN WU: "Incredibly misleading for people that are trying to get a sense of what they're paying."

Industry analysts, like Jonathan Wu, point to how the website lumps people into two broad categories: "49 or under" and "50 or older." Prices for everyone in the 49 or under group are based on what a 27 year old would pay. In the 50 or older group, prices are based on what a 50 year old would pay. We ran the numbers for a 48 year old in Charlotte, North Carolina-- ineligible for subsidies. According to, she would pay 231 dollars a month. The actual plan on Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina's website costs 360 dollars-- a more than 50 percent increase. The difference: Blue Cross Blue Shield requests your birthday before providing more accurate estimates. The numbers for older Americans are even more striking. A 62 year old in Charlotte looking for the same plan would get a price estimate on the government website of 394 dollars. The actual price is 634 dollars. An HHS spokeswoman said it added the "shop and browse" feature to provide "estimates of premiums without tax credits." Chini Krishnan's company helped design California's new health care exchange website. It requires people to enter their birth dates to get a real price quote.

CHINI KRISHNAN: "It is important that the users have a proper trustworthy honest brand experience when they interact with and I think providing accurate prices is an integral component of that."

JAN CRAWFORD, CBS: Now industry executives we talked to literally could not believe that the government is providing these estimates, which they said were useless and could easily mislead consumers. They also say, Charlie and Norah, that the website repeatedly states that actual prices could be lower but it makes no mention that they could be higher.

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