With just days remaining before the Jan. 31 deadline for purchasing 2016 individual health insurance plans through healthcare.gov, Montana’s insurance regulator reminds consumers to look closely at the plans they consider and weigh the benefits that the plans offer.

Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen warns that consumers should do their homework, especially if they are considering short-term medical plans,

"All the plans that are offered on healthcare.gov are all qualified, in that they do meet the minimum threshold," Lindeen said. "Some of the short term plans outside the marketplace do not meet those minimums."

Lindeen said anyone looking at such a plan should ask three basic questions.

"Is renewal of the insurance plan guaranteed? Is there a lifetime or annual payout limit on the plan? Does the plan cover pre-existing conditions?", she asked. "If the answer to any of those three questions is no, then it is not a qualified plan, and you would be liable to pay the penalty of $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of your gross income – whichever is higher, in addition to what you have already paid for your non-qualifying short-term plan."

Lindeen said anyone with such a plan should consider cancelling it immediately, and signing up with a qualified plan before the January 31 deadline.

Get more details on the State Auditors website, or call 1-800-332-6148.