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NDSU Extension Service, Published December 02 2013

NDSU Extension begins 'Smart Choice' health insurance selection program

Sweeping health care reform legislation means many North Dakotans have more

health insurance options.

"However, some people are uncomfortable, overwhelmed or intimidated when it

comes to making decisions about health insurance coverage," says Lori Scharmer, North Dakota State University Extension Service family economics specialist.

To help, a team of NDSU Extension agents is bringing a new program to North

Dakota.

"The Smart Choice health insurance program is a comprehensive, research-based, unbiased curriculum plan designed to equip people with the tools they need to make the best decision possible for their families," Scharmer says.

Through workshops, participants will learn how to analyze what they need and want from health-care providers, compare plans, calculate how health insurance will affect their financial budgets, and apply the information and knowledge gained to make a smart health insurance choice. Consumer workbooks allow participants to enter and use their own information to evaluate their health insurance choices.

"The Smart Choice program is not about pushing consumers to select any one

specific plan," Scharmer says. "It's designed to help people gain a set of

skills so they can choose a plan that best fits their family's needs and then use that plan efficiently once enrolled."

"As a local NDSU Extension agent, I'm pleased to bring this program to our

area," says Crystal Schaunaman, an NDSU Extension agent in McIntosh County.

"People want to make smart choices about their health and finances. This workshop can help them do just that."

With health insurance in the public spotlight, the Smart Choice health insurance program seeks to capitalize on this teachable moment by helping North Dakotans take control of their personal and family financial health needs.

"Keeping your head above water can be extremely difficult when navigating the waters of health insurance, whether you've been insured throughout your life or are faced with selecting coverage for the very first time," Scharmer says. "The Smart Choice program acts like a life vest because it empowers people by eliminating the intimidation factor, explains the steps in the process and shows people how to find the best health insurance to fit their needs."

The workbook to assist consumers in making a decision on a health insurance

policy can be found at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/money.

For more information about a Smart Choice workshop, call your local NDSU

Extension office or go to http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/money.