So what should you do if you’re one of them?
Most of these consumers will now have to choose between a handful of plans that are all probably more expensive than their current coverage. On the plus side, the plans also probably offer better coverage, industry pros say. (Health plans are now required to cover preventive services and primary care visits at no extra charge, and they cannot turn people down who have pre-existing conditions, among other changes.)
Navigating the Shopping Process
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, for example, is moving customers onto plans with similar copayments and deductibles, says Bruce Allen, director of marketing for the company.
“Carriers are not leaving these customers high and dry,” says Carrie McLean, director of customer care for eHealthinsurance.com, a private insurance exchange with authority to sell the public exchange plans also being sold on HealthCare.gov.
If they face technical issues, they might be able to begin the application process over the phone or in person with the help of a navigator, so their information will be in the system by the time the exchanges are fully functioning, says Fish-Parcham.
Some insurance companies and brokers say they plan to follow up with customers who are likely to qualify for subsidies to remind them to reapply later if they are held back by technical issues.
Insurance Agents Can Help
While subsidy-eligible individuals might want to wait until HealthCare.gov’s kinks are worked out, those consumers who earn too much to receive a federal subsidy can begin buying coverage now with the help of an insurance agent or broker well-versed in the options, says Carolyn McClanahan, a physician-turned-financial planner and founder of Life Planning Partners, a financial advisory practice in Jacksonville, Fla.
Some consumers who do expect to receive subsidies can begin browsing public exchange plans and can use a subsidy calculator to get an estimate of what their health insurance costs will be, she suggests. (Some brokers say they aren’t yet able to sell plans from the public exchanges because of technical problems.)
Deadline for Coverage Extended
Consumers will need to enroll in a plan by Dec. 15 to be covered by Jan. 1, but they will have through the end of March 2014 to change their mind if they are buying a plan on the public exchanges.
This article is reprinted with permission from MarketWatch.com. © 2013 Dow, Jones & Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.