Be Clear on What You're Buying
“The reason these plans are cheaper is usually because the benefits aren’t the same as you could get with a new plan,” says Carolyn McClanahan, a physician-turned-financial planner and founder of Life Planning Partners, a financial advisory practice in Jacksonville, Fla. “Make sure you understand the limitations of your coverage.”
Shop Around for the Best Deal
It’s those same shortfalls that consumers should examine when deciding if they will keep those plans or find new ones, insurance consultants say.
Some people who are relatively healthy may want to keep their current plans if they are cheaper than the plans on the new insurance exchanges. But others will find less expensive plans through the marketplace.
For instance, McClanahan says one married couple she advises recently found a plan on the exchanges that costs $220 a month and includes maternity benefits, down from the more than $300 they were paying monthly for their old plan, which didn’t cover maternity.
(MORE: Your Guide to Obamacare Options)
Public Exchanges Might Offer Better Choices
The individual plans being renewed after the president's announcement may still refuse to cover conditions if they’re considered pre-existing, says Fish-Parcham. And people taking medications should double check that those prescriptions are covered by the plan they had or if they would be covered by another plan being considered from the exchanges, she says.
New Challenges with Latest Change
The health insurance trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans released a statement after the president’s announcement warning that changing the rules now could “destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers.” And President Obama said that state insurance commissioners would get final say on what plans can be sold in their states.
People who don’t expect to receive subsidies to lower premium costs can purchase plans directly through an insurance company or through an agent or broker. Those who want to receive a subsidy will have to apply through a state or federally run exchange.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that just over 106,000 people chose plans on the new exchanges during the first month of open enrollment, about 1.5 percent of people expected to sign up for insurance on the exchanges by the end of next year.
This article is reprinted with permission from MarketWatch.com. © 2013 Dow, Jones & Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.