Sweeping health care reform legislation means hundreds of millions of Americans will soon have more options than ever before when it comes to health insurance, said Carrie Johnson, SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Specialist.
 
"Yet, research shows the vast majority of people in this country are uncomfortable, overwhelmed and intimidated when it comes to making decisions about health insurance coverage," Johnson said.
 
This is the motivation behind the development of Smart Choice Health Insurance. A comprehensive, research-based, unbiased curriculum designed by a team of experts from across the nation, led by the University of Maryland Extension to equip people with the tools they need to make the best decision possible for their families when choosing health insurance.
 
Johnson explained that Smart Choice is the result of two years of research and pilot-testing that took place in seven states and will roll out this fall through a series of educator and consumer workshops to be held throughout the country. Through these 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 ultimately, apply the information and knowledge gained to make a smart choice. Consumer workbooks were produced in both Spanish and English to reach a wider segment of the population.
 
"Smart Choice is not about pushing consumers to select any one specific plan," said Bonnie Braun, co-leader of the team of University of Maryland and Delaware extension experts that developed Smart Choice. "It’s designed to help people gain a set of skills so that they can choose a plan that best fits their family’s needs and then use that plan efficiently once enrolled."
 
"As the State Extension Specialist I’m pleased to offer this workshop here in South Dakota. I know people in our state want to make smart choices about their health and finances. This workshop can help them do just that," Johnson said.
 
With health insurance currently in the public spotlight, Smart Choice seeks to capitalize on this teachable moment by helping Americans 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," said Johnson. "Smart Choice acts like a life vest: it empowers people by eliminating the intimidation factor, explaining the steps in the process and ultimately showing them how to find the best fit for their needs."
 
For more information on Smart Choice, visit www.extension.umd.edu/insure. For local information about workshops, visit www.igrow.org or contact Johnson at 605-688-4035, carrie.johnson@sdstate.edu.