Also new for next year: The federal plans will offer lower premiums for children with pre-existing conditions, up to 18 years old. Children now pay the same rates as adults. In Florida, for example, the standard plan premium for a child will be $196 a month, a third less than the cheapest premium for adults.
States that decided to operate their own pre-existing condition insurance plans don't have to adopt these changes, although federal officials are encouraging them to do so. And some states already offer a choice of plans. Check this website for information about plans in your state.
Those enrolled in the federally run program this year have until Nov. 30 to pick one of the three plans for 2011. If they don't decide, they will be automatically signed up for the standard option plan.
However, there is one thing about the plans that is not changing: The health care reform law states that to qualify for this pre-existing insurance plan you must have been turned down for insurance because of an existing health condition or have been approved only for a policy that doesn't cover your condition. Some readers criticize the six-month rule. But federal officials have said they are unable to waive the rule since it is part of the law Congress approved.
The law also required a website where you can find out about other insurance options available now, including other government health programs.
Susan Jaffe of Washington, D.C., covers health and aging issues.