For individuals who are not already covered, or who are not exempted, meeting the individual mandate means shopping for insurance. To make the task easier, the federal government and many states created Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as Exchanges) – websites that allow comparison of available plans based on price, benefits and services, and quality. By pooling customers, reducing transaction costs, and increasing transparency, Health Insurance Marketplaces create more efficient and competitive markets for individuals and small employers. They will allow individuals to benefit from the pooling of risk, market leverage, and economies of scale that large businesses currently receive.
HealthCare.gov is the federal Marketplace. The site directs users to their resident state’s Marketplace, if one has been set up. If a state has not set up a Marketplace, HealthCare.gov provides the research, comparison and purchasing functions for the state’s residents.
The Marketplaces offer four levels of insurance plans: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.The levels are based on the percentage of covered costs that a plan would pay. Insurers don’t have to offer plans in all four levels.
In addition to these four plan levels, catastrophic plans will offer essential health benefits, but with high deductibles. Only young adults under 30 and individuals exempted from the individual mandate because they cannot find affordable insurance are allowed to purchase catastrophic plans and be considered covered under the individual mandate.
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