If you plan on buying health insurance for 2016 through a government or state insurance exchange, the enrollment period begins soon – on November 1st. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or an experienced health insurance consumer, the shopping process can be confusing, sometimes even a bit overwhelming. Chances are you’ll need some expert assistance to guide you through the options, get the subsidies you deserve and help you enroll in the right plan. That help is generally provided through a health insurance agent or a navigator.
Although agents and navigators are similar in some ways there are some very important differences, and many consumers now understand that. In fact, in a recent survey consumers preferred using an agent three times more than they preferred using a navigator. When you line them up side-by-side, that preference makes a lot of sense.
How to Tell The Difference Between a Health Insurance Agent and a Navigator
Really, the similarities are straightforward. Both receive some training and are certified to act as guides for a state’s exchange. Both can help you—free of charge—to use the government insurance exchange to enroll in a health plan. They can also help you apply for government subsidies to lower your health insurance costs.
However, the differences are significant.
- Health insurance agents are licensed by a state’s department of insurance. It’s their chosen career that they work at every day – to assist customers in finding and purchasing the right insurance to meet their needs. Navigators are frequently volunteers who work for non-profit organizations and assist individuals with insurance related matters only during the open enrollment period.
- While licensed agents may have several years of experience assisting customers in understanding their health insurance options, the role of the navigator only began last year.
- Only an agent can recommend a plan based on someone’s health care needs and budget; navigators are prohibited from providing any plan recommendations.
Licensed HealthMarkets agents must also pass additional professional examinations and participate in continuing education programs in order to assist insurance customers before, during, and after enrollment. That ongoing education helps ensure their knowledge in the health insurance field is current. Navigators, on the other hand, don’t have a similar education and preparation requirement.
At HealthMarkets, we help simplify the process of shopping for health insurance. With access to more than 200 different insurance companies and thousands of health plans nationwide, HealthMarkets can help find the right plans for you and your family either on or off the exchange.
Call us 24/7 at (800) 304-3414 or meet with one of our 3,000 local, licensed health insurance agents.