<img src="//bat.bing.com/action/0?ti=5067266&amp;Ver=2" height="0" width="0" style="display:none; visibility: hidden;">

We've updated one of our most popular materials. See what's new in our guide to MERPs.

The Affordable Care Act’s Exchange Marketplaces

Obamacare Insurance Exchanges

Obamacare introduced new Health Insurance Exchanges (“Marketplaces”). The Marketplaces are websitesObamacare_insurance_exchanges where you can shop, compare, and enroll in an individual or small business health insurance plan.

Each state has a Marketplace that is either run by the state (ex: CoveredCA.com), or the federal government (HealthCare.gov). The Marketplaces are intended to make shopping for health insurance easier and give individuals and small businesses access to the tax credits.

This section provides more information on the Obamacare Marketplaces including how to sign up for coverage, the different state Marketplaces, and the types of health plans offered on the Marketplaces.

How to Sign Up For the Health Insurance Marketplace

Individuals signing up for coverage through the Marketplaces can follow these easy steps.

Step 1: Set Up a Marketplace Account

The first thing to do is set up an account with the Marketplace. This will either be a website run by your state’s government, or a federal marketplace website. To look up your state's marketplaces website visit www.HealthCare.gov.

Step 2: Fill Out an Eligibility Application

Next, fill out an eligibility application. This application asks questions about family income, household size, current health coverage information, and more.

From the information you provide in this section, the Marketplace website will calculate eligibility for certain discounts on your health insurance premium, such as Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or the premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies.

Step 3: Compare Plan Options

The Marketplace website then displays plans for side-by-side comparison. Compare:

  • The benefits offered through each plan
  • The monthly cost for each plan, with any discounts applied
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Deductibles
  • Co-payments
  • Coinsurance
  • Premiums

Tip: The monthly premium shown on the Marketplace website will have any discounts factored in. This amount reflect the actual amount due every month.

Step 4: Enroll in a Plan

Once you select a plan, enroll online. Once enrolled you will provide payment information -- how you plan to pay your monthly premiums to the insurance company.

If you or a family member qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, a representative will contact you to enroll.

What You’ll Need When You Apply

Here's the basic information you’ll need when filling out the application for individual health insurance. Be prepared with the following information:

  • Date of birth
  • Social security number & citizenship status
  • Tax filing status, and number of dependents*
  • Current job and income information including current employer, wages, hours worked (i.e. a current paystub)*
  • Other income information such as pensions, rental income, alimony received, unemployment income, etc.*
  • Current insurance information such as how you are insured (employer, Medicaid, individual health insurance, etc.)*
  • Payment information, such as a credit card or bank draft (ACH) information

*These questions will only be asked if you are applying for federal assistance (premium tax subsidies, cost-sharing, Medicaid, CHIP, etc.).

Health Insurance Exchanges by State

Under Obamacare, each state had the option to either create and operate an Exchange (a state-run Exchange), default to the federally-run Exchange (healthcare.gov), or partner with the federal Exchange to help.

The following states operate a state-run Exchange:

The remaining states use the federally-run Health Insurance Marketplace, www.healthcare.gov.

Metallic Tier Plans on the Exchanges: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum

To help understand plan costs and coverage, Obamacare introduced standardized levels of coverage, called “metallic tiers of coverage.” These categories are intended to help you better compare plans “apples to apples.”

The four metallic tiers are Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. A fifth category, Catastrophic, is also available to some individuals.

As the metal category increases in value, so does the percent of medical expenses that a health plan will cover.

Affordable Care Act 101 for Small Businesses eBook