health-exchangeConnect for Health Colorado has launched an updated enrollment site for individuals and families shopping for private health insurance in the upcoming open enrollment, which begins Saturday.

The early opening provides a pre-enrollment preview for Coloradans obtaining coverage through Connect for Health Colorado, the state health insurance marketplace. More than 148,000 individuals have been covered through plans purchased on the Marketplace this year.

This week, current and potential customers will be able to compare insurance policies offered in their region, research their eligibility for tax credits, choose coverage and begin enrollment.

“We want to encourage consumers to comparison shop for policies that meet their needs and their own particular circumstances,” saidConnect for Health Colorado Interim CEO Gary Drews. “Monthly premiums, benefits and the financial assistance available to consumers who qualify can change each year. This year, there are some new, less expensive choices available in many regions. We are urging Coloradans to be smart consumers and compare their options before renewing their current plan or enrolling in a new one.”

Applicants this year will find a simplified single application process to direct consumers to either completing an enrollment in private health insurance via Connect for Health Colorado or enrolling in Medicaid with the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, depending on the applicant’s financial situation. The two entities have been collaborating for months on making the enrollment process easier, according to a news release sent by the state.

Other changes to assist in enrollment include:

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  • An avatar named “Kyla,” a virtual assistant who can help customers through some of the key steps of the enrollment process.
  • A medication tool, which enables customers to compare prescription coverage under various policies.
  • An enhanced provider directory to help customers determine if their doctor is in the network of the health plans they are comparing.

Customers will be able to renew existing policies or purchase new coverage during the open enrollment period, which runs from Saturday, Nov. 15, to Feb. 15, 2015. Whether renewing or enrolling for the first time, enrollment must be completed by Dec. 15. to have coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2015, and to avoid a gap in coverage.

“We know that finding the right policy can be complicated. That’s why we suggest Coloradans take advantage of free, in-person help available in every county of our state from a network of trained and certified health coverage guides and brokers,” Drews said. “These are experts who can help explain the differences in plans, benefits and costs and help you through the financial application and enrollment process.”

There are more than 1,600 independent brokers and agents, and more than 400 health coverage guides and certified application counselors. Search by Zip code at http://connectforhealthco.com/help-center/.

About Connect for Health Colorado

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, nonprofit entity established in law by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace. It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013 for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and apply for tax credits to help make their insurance more affordable. Customers can shop online, get help by phone or chat from expert customer service center representatives and find in-person assistance from certified brokers and agents, community based certified health coverage guides or certified application counselors.