I got a letter about my insurance, do I need a broker or “assister”?

More than 500 people in King County have been trained as “In-Person Assisters,” to help people enroll in the new Washington Healthplanfinder. but, there are also private insurance agents who help people pick an insurance plan.  What’s the difference?

Elisa Hahn of KING5 TV explained the difference in a story just before the system launched:IPA Jefferson Rose on KING5

“Most in-person assisters have a background in community outreach. They have been trained and certified to help navigate the exchange process. By law, they must be impartial and cannot recommend a particular plan. They receive no commissions and their service is free.

“For the state certified brokers, their expertise is selling insurance. They have also been trained and certified to sell insurance on the Exchange. They can recommend what plan they think is better for you. They do receive commissions from insurance carriers, but their services are free for the customer.

“Some advisors familiar with the process say clients who have questions about the details of particular plans may need a broker.  But for those getting insurance for the first time, or qualify for a full subsidy, an assister may be more suitable.”

More people are wondering how to get advice these days, because everyone’s insurance plan is sending out a letter about their current coverage. It’s a requirement under the law that insurance plans, or the employer that’s offering them, send a notification this fall about the status of your plan, and whether it meets minimum standards of coverage.

If you’ve purchased your own individual plan, there’s a good chance those plans are changing.

Guidance for people who currently have an individual insurance plan (from Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s office):

All of the insurance companies selling individual health plans are replacing their current plans with plans that have these new consumer protections. They must give their policyholders a 90-day notice that outlines their options, including:

If you’ve received a notice from your insurer about picking a new plan and you do not take action, your insurer will automatically move you to the plan that most closely resembles what you have today. This new plan could cost more, but it’s not your only option.

“Companies are required to give you notice if they’re replacing your plan,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “But, unfortunately, they may not include all of your options – including your right to pick a new plan from a different company or buy through the new exchange, WAhealthplanfinder.org. “

Do you have an individual health plan?

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