The Norman Transcript

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November 5, 2013

Presenting other ways to shop for health insurance

NORMAN — Looking for health insurance? Can’t get the Obamacare website to work?

There are other ways to shop. You can go directly to insurance company websites, where you’ll find coverage details and premium costs of every policy each company is offering both on and off the federal health insurance marketplace.

You also can contact an independent insurance agent, who can compare plans offered by several insurance companies and help you pick one that best fits your circumstances.

Neither option has received much attention in the initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Oklahoma and other states.

You may not be able to finish the process until the federal government’s bug-afflicted website is fixed, which may be weeks away. But at least you’ll be able to compare plans and premiums and receive estimates of how much your policy will cost after federal tax credits are figured in. If you know you’re ineligible for subsidies, you can enroll in a health plan now.

“They don’t have to go through the marketplace portal,” said Deputy State Insurance Commissioner Mike Rhoads. “They can go directly to the company websites and start that enrollment process. Or if they want to get all of the array of offerings out there, they can go to an agent who can shop that for them.”

“It’s really going to depend on the person and their own personal shopping preferences,” said Blue Cross Blue Shield spokeswoman Ashley Hudgeons. “For someone who is used to the online shopping-cart experience, that might be a good choice for them. For some people, it might be going to an agent or a navigator.”

One caveat: Insurance company websites might be a good starting place, but they can’t provide official calculations of federal tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies. For that, you’ll still need to go through the ACA marketplace by Dec. 15 if you want your policy to take effect on Jan. 1. (You can wait until March 15 and not pay a fine, but your policy won’t take effect as soon.)

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