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Navigating the Healthcare Marketplace
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had two major goals: make health insurance more affordable and make health insurance more accessible. While subsidies have helped make health insurance more affordable for many, healthcare marketplaces have been the leading force behind making it accessible. By using a marketplace, you can view, compare, and purchase health insurance with confidence.
Whether you use a federal, state, or private marketplace, you have access to all of the health insurance plans available in your area. For more information about healthcare marketplaces (often called health insurance exchanges), why it is important to use them during the Open Enrollment Period, and how to avoid a tax penalty next year, read on.
Healthcare marketplaces are websites set up by the federal government, your state, or private insurance companies. On these websites, qualified health insurance companies can display their health insurance products for customers in their service area. All of the plans are listed out and organized in the same way, so Americans searching for health insurance can find coverage information, price comparisons, and additional features (such as dental or vision coverage) easily before they enroll in a plan.
How the 3 Types of Marketplace Exchanges Differ
- Federal Marketplace Exchange: The federal government runs the federal healthcare exchange. It can be accessed online or over the phone with a government representative. This exchange is only available to participating states. A licensed health insurance agent can provide you with guidance and help you enroll in a plan through the federal marketplace exchange, but government representatives cannot advise you. If a licensed agent guides you or helps you enroll through this marketplace, your plan costs will not change.
- State Marketplace Exchange: States that do not wish to participate in the federal marketplace exchange must create a state exchange or State Partnership Marketplace exclusive to their residents. While health insurance plans are accessible in federal and state marketplaces, finding the right policy for you and your family can require careful consideration.
- Private Marketplace Exchange: Private companies, such as HealthMarkets, run private health insurance exchanges where U.S. residents can search for plans. Exchanges like these have licensed insurance agents available to help consumers learn about options and compare thousands of plans both in and out of the federal and state exchanges.
By law, government representatives can’t offer advice. They also cannot offer plans that aren’t sold exclusively in the federal (or their state) exchange. However, a health insurance agent can offer advice and help you select a plan on a federal or state exchange. As you can see, a licensed insurance agent can help with any of these three exchanges. Contact one from HealthMarkets today.
Open Enrollment in the Healthcare Marketplace
The open enrollment period is a limited length of time when marketplaces (or exchanges) are open. If you do not experience a qualifying life event, the open enrollment period is the only time you can enroll in health insurance. Regardless of which healthcare marketplace you wish to shop, you should be aware of the important enrollment dates and deadlines.
The open enrollment period for 2018 coverage in most states is November 1 through December 15. Be sure to check your state's open enrollment period.
During this time, all health insurance marketplaces should be open for Americans to shop, compare, and enroll in a healthcare plan. You can also re-enroll in your plan during this period, should your insurance provider have the same or a similar plan available.
If you do not enroll in a health insurance plan during this time, you may have to pay a tax penalty.
Penalties for Those Without Health Insurance
For the 2017 tax year, you may be required to pay the higher of:
- The flat rate penalty of $695 per uninsured adult or $347.50 per uninsured child (under 18 years), up to $2,085 per household or
- 2.5% of your yearly household income.
Don’t get caught paying the tax penalty by remaining uninsured. HealthMarkets has licensed insurance agents available to help you navigate any of the three healthcare marketplaces and find the health insurance policy that fits your needs. Our services are free and easy to use. Request a free quote online, or give us a call at (800) 360-1402. We're ready when you are.