The second year of buying health insurance on the Affordable Care Act's online exchange started this month. It will remain open till the 15th of Feb.
People who already have plans can renew their policy though the price and subsidy may change.
"We're encouraging people to (shop), so they are sure they're getting the best plan for the best price, for their needs and their budget," said Mike Fierberg, regional spokesman for the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Insurers hope that more consumers will want health coverage, "We're hoping that now that it's in the second year, that more folks will give it a try and get out there and shop for a plan," said Todd Lovshin, of PacificSource, one of four companies selling policies on Montana's marketplace.
As of Saturday, Montanans can use the federal website www.healthcare.gov to shop for policies from four companies: PacificSource, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, the Montana Health Co-op and Assurant Health, which is a newcomer to the marketplace in Montana.
Assurant, based in Milwaukee, already sells health insurance in Montana, but decided to get on the marketplace this year "in order to serve more customers," said company spokeswoman Lauren Vagnini.
When the Affordable Care Act launched last year, it was a major disaster as technological glitches hindered the website and made it inoperable for almost 2 months. 8 million people and 36,000 Montanans managed to buy health covers in spite of everything.
Consumers who needed help could approach the state auditor's office, hospitals, federally funded health clinics, navigator groups, and the insurers selling the policies.
John Doran, public relations director for Blue Cross in Montana, said the company has 24-hour telephone assistance and an easy-to-use website to renew policies.
Insurers hope that the second year will bring in younger, healthier customers, to balance the pool of insured customers.
"The whole theory of Obamacare is that (over time) you'll get more and more healthy people coming into the marketplace," says Jerry Dworak, CEO of the Montana Health Co-op. "We hope that trend continues during this open enrollment period."
Reference: Mike Dennison