BEND, Ore. -

By January, when the nation's health care reform policies kick in, many people's health insurance coverage and costs will change, and people with individual plans will be hit hardest by higher costs, a Bend insurance expert said Wednesday.

Fifteen employees at a Bend business are covered by its health insurance plan. Manzama is a business and social research company. Owner Mark Hinkle says health insurance is something that keeps his workers happy and healthy.

"We think it's a really important benefit to provide to our employees, but it's also one of the most expensive expenditures we have," Hinkle said.

The costs are likely to rise. Under the federal health care overhaul known as Obamacare, people can't be decline coverage, there's no waiting period for pre-existing conditions and more people, who are now uninsured, will be in the system.

But all that comes at a cost.

"Everyone is going to be impacted one way or another, whether directly or indirectly," said Patrick O'Keefe, the owner of Cascade Insurance Center.

O'Keefe has been holding seminars for people to help them understand the changes. He says people with individual health plans could see their prices rise an average of 38 percent.

"If someone is paying $300 or $400 a month, which is a relatively low premium, depending on their age, it could be $100, $125 or $150 more on top of that," O'Keefe said.

The best advice? O'Keefe says to start planning early. Open enrollment for individual plans usually starts in the fall.

"Don't wait until January or February and wonder what happened," he said.

For small business owners and their employees, it's a waiting game to find out exactly how much more they might have to pay.

"Any of the changes will have a serious implication on us from an economical perspective," said Hinkle.

To learn more, visit the Website of Oregon's new health insurance exchange at http://coveroregon.com/