Health Insurance? There is an app for that!

My last hack, Hacker News Like Button, received a mixed reaction in Hacker News. The community loved the hack but thought that a like button would lead to an Eternal September. I agree with the community on that so I have been fooling around with few ideas to make the Like button more ‘likeable’. But that is not what this post is about.

I have been brushing my development skills on various topics. For example, I spent some time creating 3D animations in HTML5 using javascript and the result is iframed below.

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I had also been wanting to learn one of the two languages: Python (and Django) or Ruby (on Rails). I did some research on these and decided to go with Python. The primary reason for this being Google App Engine’s compatibility with Python.

I believe in learning by doing and so I was looking for a problem to work on using Python. At the mean time, I had to select my health insurance plan for next year. Health insurance plan selection is an optimization problem. You can pay higher premium to minimize your risk or pay lower premium but take higher risk. Employer contribution and HSA plans serve as additional constraints. And as the annual enrollment is ariving soon, this problem fit the definition of “interesting and useful”.

Here is the final project : Pick-a-Plan.

I used Bootstrap for the layout/design and Google Visualization API for the gauges in Health-Meter. Health-Meter allows you to experiment with different health-service scenarios and as you adjust you medical-needs, estimated annual cost is updated. The idea is to let the users compare different plans under different health-care scenarios so that they can make informed decision.

Google App Engine getting started document was adequate to help me get this project completed. I am impressed by the simplicity of Google App Engine development and deployment process. While there might be complexities that I did not come across due to the simple nature of this application; the fact that I got this project completed without much hurdle means a lot. As they say, well begun is half done.

Please give Pick-a-Plan a try and let me know what you think. Your encouragement will keep me motivated.