Hassan kicks off health insurance sign-up season ahead of Saturday's open enrollment

Gov. Maggie Hassan thanked workers who will be helping consumers sign up for insurance under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, praising their role Thursday in improving the health and financial well-being of New Hampshire residents.

Hassan spoke during a training session for so-called marketplace assisters who are gearing up for the health law's second enrollment period, which starts Saturday and runs through Feb. 15. More than 40,000 New Hampshire residents selected health plans during the first enrollment period, and almost 23,000 more have enrolled in the state's newly-expanded Medicaid program.

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"Tens of thousands of neighbors, friends and family members have access to the security and peace of mind that comes with quality, affordable health insurance that they deserve," Hassan said. "And just as importantly, helping them access this critical security reinforces the basic principle that in New Hampshire, everyone counts."

New Hampshire opted not to set up its own online insurance marketplace under the overhaul law and is partnering with the federal government to educate consumers and manage the health plans being offered. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield was the only company that offered health plans through the marketplace during the initial six-month enrollment period that ended March 31, and it was criticized for its narrow provider network that excluded some hospitals.

For 2015, Anthem will be one of five companies offering plans, and each hospital will be included in at least three provider networks. Individuals will choose among 40 plans, while small businesses will have 21 choices.

But after last year's chaotic rollout of the federal exchange's website, the public remains skeptical and Congress is now fully in the hands of Republicans committed to repeal the law.

Hassan, a Democrat, said she is confident that New Hampshire officials will work in a bipartisan manner to continue the state's progress.