Thousands of people in Maine remain in need of health insurance. While the first phase of open enrollment has closed, they still have until Feb. 15 to head to the health exchange website to buy insurance. But they need to be careful when it comes to choosing a plan.

Figuring out which plan is the best fit has, in the past, proven challenging, frustrating or both for many who have found that insurance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re covered.

Maine families that are living with epilepsy have experienced barrier after barrier from their insurance companies. They’ve bought the insurance to ensure they have access to the medications that keep their conditions under control. But too often, they find plans that don’t offer the range of epilepsy drugs available, or the drugs their doctor has prescribed specifically for them.

In many of these cases, folks are faced with having to switch to other drugs they are not familiar with or have not taken before. They do so with much uncertainty. In other cases, they find the drug they have been taking is on a plan but at an increased, often prohibitive cost.

The roughly 13,000 people living with epilepsy in Maine rely on specialized medications to treat their conditions. Add in those who have other chronic illnesses – such as arthritis, leukemia and lymphoma, lung disease, cancer and more – and the numbers surge.

Their doctors prescribe the best treatment for them. Without access to these essential medicines, they skip doses, flounder and get sicker. Those realities often drive up health care costs because the patient ends up in the emergency room.

That’s why it is so important to make sure the plan you’re choosing will cover your needs. Last year, many of the plans lacked transparency regarding what they offered, what medications they covered (also known as the formulary) and other information that’s important when choosing a plan.

Several months ago, the Epilepsy Foundation joined over 300 other advocacy organizations in urging federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to ensure that consumers have access to more information about cost-sharing, plan design and physician specialists before they enroll in a plan.

This year, while the technical system has improved, unfortunately, now that we’ve had a chance to see the plans for 2015, it’s clear that many of the coverage problems persist.

The information on the plans remains difficult to find. Specifically, patients need to know if prescription drug formularies on the plans have narrowed or expanded and whether medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the past two years have been added to the formularies.

Have deductibles increased or decreased, including separate prescription drug deductibles? Last year, some deductibles were as high as the maximum patient out-of-pocket costs allowed, which meant patients had to spend $6,300 before the plan would begin to pay.

The promise made that plans would easily display their plan drug formularies, including tiering, is not being realized. While some plans do include a direct link to their drug formularies, including tiering, the vast majority do not. Instead, a link to the main website of the plan is provided and a user has to search and search for the formulary. In some instances, the formularies cannot be found, while others are out of date.

Hopefully, things will improve. Under a recent proposal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, patients would be able to access drug formularies for different plans on a public website, and there is encouraging language to prevent insurers from discriminating against those patients with chronic illnesses. These are welcome changes and should be adopted by the federal government and the state of Maine.

The Affordable Care Act was implemented to help people get the insurance they need. All that those living with epilepsy and other chronic illnesses want is to have access to the most successful medications available to treat their conditions so that they can live normal lives.

These families are fighting enough as it is. They shouldn’t have to fight just to figure out which plan is best for them, and which plans cover their medications. They should be able to access that information easily.

Transparency within the plans is essential. These patients are essential.