President Obama has announced that after March 31, individual consumers who do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period will be unable to purchase health insurance coverage until the Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov) reopens on Nov. 15, 2014. Local independent insurance agent Bill Sjulin of Town & County Insurance is recommending everyone select their plans early to avoid what is expected to be a last minute rush to enroll.

"While the website works better than when it launched, additional website delays will likely be seen as everyone tries to secure coverage these last few weeks of the open enrollment period," Bill explained. Applying for health insurance coverage can be confusing, but working with a local agent, such as Sjulin, will not cost consumers anything and relying on their expertise when choosing the right health plan may be essential.

"We’re unfortunately hearing horror stories about individuals who simply chose the cheapest plan – not knowing that by doing so they were limiting their network, meaning the doctor they were used to seeing was no longer covered by their new plan," Bill said. "Choosing the right plan comes down to more than price and we’re here to educate clients on the networks and choose the option that will work best for them in their specific area."

After March 31, individuals will only be able to enroll or change their health insurance coverage if they have a qualifying life event, also called a Special Enrollment Period or SEP. Qualifying life events include:

*Getting married

*Having or adopting a child

*Permanently moving to a new area that offers different health plan options

*Losing other health coverage due to job loss, divorce, loss of Medicaid eligibility, etc.

Your local, independent health insurance agent can help you secure health insurance coverage before the March 31 deadline and answer any questions concerning qualifying life events for the Special Enrollment Period.