Help Purchasing Your Health Insurance Plan – Brokers, Counselors, and Navigators

You Don't Have to Choose Health Insurance Alone

Wish you had more help choosing your plan? Want someone to take the guesswork out of enrolling in health insurance?

There are people with specific training who can help you select and enroll in the right health plan, including:

  • Agents and brokers
  • Certified application counselors and navigators
  • Support services personnel from the insurance carriers

Health Insurance Agents & Brokers

Whether buying health insurance for just yourself or making decisions for small business employees, if you don’t feel confident making these decisions alone, a broker might be a good option. A broker usually represents several different insurance companies and can help you determine what plan features you can get from different providers.

Brokers generally receive commissions, or payments, from the companies they represent. They may not sell plans from companies they do not have agreements with. However, in Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia, brokers are legally required to represent your best interests and help you compare prices between companies.

You can tell a broker what you need and want in a plan, and the broker will:

  • Find out what options are available
  • Narrow down options to help you make the best choice
  • Work within your budget
  • Not charge you a fee for helping you choose a plan

Health Insurance Navigators and Certified Application Counselors

Navigators and certified application counselors are specially trained to help individuals, small businesses, and small business employees find the best health coverage option.

The role of a navigator is to provide information you can use to understand your options. Unlike brokers or agents, navigators are:

  • Not allowed to recommend one plan over another
  • Cannot direct you to choose a particular insurance plan
  • Not limited to private insurance plans

However, once you have chosen a plan, navigators can help you enroll. They can also help you determine if you qualify for Medicaid, Medicare, or CHIP. Navigators are funded by federal or state grant money and are free for individuals to consult.

Like navigators, certified application counselors receive specialized training to help you choose the best coverage option and complete your application for coverage. Application counselors will not charge you for their services and are often affiliated with organizations like:

  • Community health centers
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Hospitals
  • Social service agencies

Navigators and certified application counselors do not represent insurance companies. They are intended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to represent your best interests as you choose and enroll in an insurance plan.

Insurance Carrier Support Services

If you know the company you want to use for health coverage but can't decide between their plans, contacting the company directly might be your best option. Health insurance companies have people and resources to help you select a plan that covers your unique needs. You can use the tools on the insurance company's website, or call their customer service number and ask for help choosing a plan.

If you are purchasing a plan through your employer, your employer has chosen the health insurance company for you, but you will likely still have choices to make. In this case, your HR manager may be able to help you choose a plan, or tell you who to contact at the insurance company to get help.

Whether you use a broker or go directly through the insurer, the end goal is to have the best plan for your needs. Learn more about CareFirst’s health plan options, contact us for one-on-one help regarding plans, or find a broker, navigator, or certified application counselor to help you understand the plan options in your area.