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Do you want a health insurance plan that fits your personal medical needs and budget? You want a plan that you’ll still be happy with six months from now!

A licensed health insurance agent wants those same things for you.

When it’s time to shop for a new health plan for yourself or your family, working with a licensed agent can make a big difference. Why struggle on your own or with the limited assistance that most government-exchange “navigators” can offer when there are licensed agents ready to help?

What’s the value of shopping for health insurance through a licensed agent?

Here are three simple reasons:

1) You can use an agent’s services for free. Agents are paid by the insurance companies and the premiums are the same, no matter where you buy it or whether an agent was involved. A plan never costs more because you choose to buy with an agent. When you understand the benefits of shopping through a licensed agent – and the fact that you don’t have to pay more for using an agent – it’s easy to see why shopping with an agent is the smart way to go. And contrary to misinformation, health insurance agents do not attempt to convince you to buy now.

2) Agents make it easy to understand your options. Unless you have a real passion for fine print and health insurance terminology, it’s not always easy to understand what you’re seeing when comparing health insurance options. Licensed health insurance agents are specially trained to help you understand how plans differ from one another and how your coverage will actually work in the real world.

3) Agents are your advocates even after you enroll. Your agent is there for you even after you buy a new health insurance plan. Your agent can help you re-shop each year during the Obamacare open enrollment period, or whenever qualifying life changes happen and you need to update your coverage. What’s more, your agent can serve as your advocate with the insurance company when you have questions about benefits or about how a medical claim was processed.

How do licensed agents and government-exchange navigators differ?

1) Will you pay more to work with them? No, and this is true of both licensed agents and government-exchange navigators. The plan you choose will cost the same regulated price no matter where you buy it. Why limit yourself to shopping only what’s available at the government exchange.

2) Can they help you apply for subsidies? You can apply for health insurance subsidies through government exchanges OR through the licensed agents authorized to process subsidy applications. Depending on your income, these subsidies can significantly lower  your out of pocket expenses toward your monthly premiums.

3) Can they help you enroll in subsidy-eligible plans? You may be able to enroll in subsidy-eligible plans through both licensed agents and government exchange navigators. In most states, licensed agents can provide you with access to the very same subsidy-eligible health insurance plans that are available through the government exchange in your state.

4) Can they show you plans available outside of government exchanges? Navigators can’t help you here. Government exchanges only show you some of the plans available. If you are not using a subsidy, licensed agents can also show you other Obamacare-compliant plans that will save you from a tax penalty but which are only available outside of government exchanges.