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The easiest choice may not be the best

When faced with choices that sound confusing, it’s human nature to hold tight to what we already have. Introduce the word “insurance,” and most people head for the hills.

But good health insurance is ultimately about financial security and access to the health care you need. It’s in your best interest to consider all your options and think carefully about what is best for you – because insurance isn’t one size fits all.

As you may know, people who had their plans since March 23, 2010, were allowed to keep them even if they don’t meet the Affordable Care Act standards; President Obama recently extended that option, allowing insurance companies to renew non-compliant plans in 2014 for everyone. Anthem announced that people that have bought its plans since March of this year have until mid-December to renew policies that won’t be offered in 2014. People can also stay on the state’s high risk plan into 2014.

Sticking with the status quo may seem like the easiest choice, but be aware that you may be settling for an insurance plan that won’t meet your needs and you may be paying more than you need to.

The reason policies are being discontinued is that they don’t offer a complete array of benefits. They may limit what health care they pay for or have unaffordable cost-sharing. In a crisis, you may find yourself underinsured and paying more than you would under a plan that meets the Affordable Care Act guidelines. And, financial assistance is available for many, but only if you buy insurance through the Marketplace. For those considering staying on the state’s high risk plan, keep in mind when you transition coverage, your deductible may restart – even if it hasn’t been a full year; the same is true if you early renew your insurance.

The good news is that finding out what new options are available is getting easier every day. For starters, you can go on healthcare.gov. In the last few weeks, many of the bugs have been worked out and it keeps getting better. More and more Granite Staters are finding out about the improved coverage and financial assistance — tax credits and subsidies — they can receive if they buy their insurance through the new Marketplace.

Recent reports say 90 percent of people who went back on the website have been able to create accounts the second time around. We don’t know if these people bought a policy, but they got into the system and got information about their options.

The other option is to reach out to one of the new trained and certified assisters located across the state. Assisters won’t keep any of your personal information. It is entered into your private account on the federal website; it doesn’t remain in their hands. You can also get help from an insurance broker that is registered to help you explore your options through the Marketplace.

Together you will boot up the computer and walk through the website until you have the information you need. These professionals can make sure you know and understand your options – including costs, deductibles, co-pays, prescription or dental benefits and whether your doctor is in the plan – and brokers can help you choose a plan.

In addition to searching new options on the Marketplace, you can also shop for plans from insurers outside of the Marketplace, including those with broad provider networks. No one has to make a decision on the spot. Once you get information about the health plans, costs and financial assistance, you can take that information with you, think about it and talk to your family. When you’re ready, you can enroll – or not.

Some people may still opt to stay on their old health plans, but it should be a decision you make understanding all your options and the relative pros and cons. No one likes to think about getting sick or injured – but if the worst happens, you’ll be glad you took the time to get the coverage you need.

Lisa Kaplan Howe is the policy director for NH Voices for Health.

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