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I'm new in these parts and I have 0 programming experience. I've been doing research for a school project and I've hit a brick wall. What I want to do is to be able to extract the non-price data/information (e.g. benefits, health insurer HQ location) of healthcare plans all over the country.

Now, the brick wall I'm facing is the Healthcare.gov Finder API http://www.healthdata.gov/data/dataset/healthcare-finder-api. My question is: will this API do the job that I need done?

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(Caveat - I have not used this API, but have used the raw datasets).

I read the technical documentation for this API. It can be found at: https://finder.healthcare.gov/services

This is not a "REST API". It is similar, but instead of using parameters on the URL request, you place your request in XML as party of the body in a POST request to the healthcare API url.

How you do this will depend on what programming language you are using? Curious, are you a HS or college student.

  • I am a university student and I have no idea what you just said; can you explain in less technical terms? :D – user3299937 Feb 17 '14 at 9:07
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    Can you find a programmer to help you? You will need somebody that understands how to form HTTP POST requests and parse an XML response for the data fields you are interested in. – Andrew - OpenGeoCode Feb 19 '14 at 17:23
  • "The HealthCare Finder API (API) accepts an XML (application/xml) request via a post and returns XML as a response. All requests to the API are currently stateless." ... sounds like SOAP to me, even if they're not calling it. (probably document/literal SOAP) .. I'm surprised there's no WSDL – Joe Feb 21 '14 at 14:22
  • I agree with Joe. My first thoughts was this was a SOAP based method without a WSDL. – Andrew - OpenGeoCode Feb 21 '14 at 15:36
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If you don't have programming experience, it's going to be tough. I'm going to propose a possible solution that doesn't involve programming, but with a time restriction I think it's a major effort to get running.

There is a free open-source program called KNIME where you can create your POST request and then pass it to the service. KNIME is used for ETL (extract, transform, load) data as well as some analysis. It's done by using a visual workflow, where you drag and drop "noes" onto the page and connect them to connect the data flow. There are nodes for input and output of data, sometimes by Excel or XML files.

The workflow would be constructed something like this:

enter image description here

And the POST node looks like this:

enter image description here

update: If the API is indeed SOAP, then the node in KNIME is called Generic_Webservice_Client.

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By non-price data/info (e.g., benefits, insurer HQ location) of national health plans, are you looking specifically for ACA (i.e., Obamacare) plans or all health plans that include group insurance plans? If former, one data set you may want to look at is available on healthcare.gov. Go to the bottom of the home page and click on the tab for "researchers." There, you will find various plan data. You can get a complete list of all insurers that offer Obamacare plans in the Federal exchange (38 states as of 2016). Remaining 12 States and Wash DC have their own State exchanges.

If you are also looking for all health insurance data that includes group insurance, unfortunately, there is no one place to get this info.

I hope this helps.

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