U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and health care advocates urged residents to take advantage of the Open Enrollment period that started Monday for buying coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Recent changes lowered costs by as much as half for those purchasing plans with subsidies under the health care exchanges, Hassan said during an online update on the program.

“It’s important for people who might have priced the plans a year ago to go back in and check them again for 2021 and 2022,” Hassan said.

The framework for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would extend the increased subsidies for another three years.

This year’s enrollment period continues until Jan. 15, four weeks longer than in the past.

Federal grants have also led to increasing the number of navigators who provide no-cost and no-bias help to any residents who request assistance in getting covered.

At his own event, Gov. Chris Sununu said New Hampshire’s health care benchmark premiums are the lowest in New England and lower than the national average.

Sununu said these benchmark rates in the individual market have dropped 35% since 2018 and the premiums were to be 7% lower in 2022.

“These rates will help spur individuals to check back into the marketplace to select a policy that works best for them,” Sununu said.

Insurance Commissioner Christopher Nicolopoulos said lower rates for families who don’t qualify for subsidies led to a 24% enrollment increase in 2020.

Anthem, Ambetter from NH Healthy Families and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care offer individual plans on the marketplace.

More navigators to help

Roshani Giri said she moved to Manchester in 2018, bought coverage and now works as a navigator who specializes in helping residents who speak Nepali or Hindu.

“I am so happy for this open enrollment session. We were able to get the health plans, and to date (I) am taking advantage of all those benefits,” Giri said.

“It was really tough. I am blessed because I speak English.”

Elias Ashooh of Health Market Connect said he manages a staff of 10 community navigators with a call center that offers help in person or remotely.

“It is an unprecedented time for New Hampshire to have such easy access,” Ashooh said.

The other navigator is First Choice Services.

The numbers to call to reach navigators are 1-877-211-6284 or 800-208-5164.

Ashooh’s program can be reached by phone (603-309-2021) or email (help@hmcnh.com),

Lucy Hodder, director of health law and policy programs at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, said in doing their research residents should check to make sure their health care providers are in the plan’s network.

The plans typically cover all physicians who work for hospital-owned practices, Ashooh said, but New Hampshire residents may find that these plans don’t cover their doctors if they work in Massachusetts.