Under the Affordable Care Act – also known as the ACA or ObamaCare, most Americans are required to enroll in health insurance coverage otherwise they could face steep financial penalties. Many people opt to purchase their insurance plans via the healthcare exchanges, which are operated by the government; however, these exchanges aren’t the only way to secure coverage.
A lot of people don’t realize that they can purchase health insurance outside of the ACA exchanges. Sure, for individuals who are eligible for subsidies, purchasing a policy from the exchange makes sense, as doing so ensures that they will receive their tax credits; but if you don’t qualify for these subsidies, you might want to investigate other options outside of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. There’s a whole health insurance market out there just waiting to be explored, and you might be surprised to find that the off-exchange options are far better than those that are available on the exchange.
Purchasing Off-Exchange Health Insurance Coverage
There are a number of ways that you can purchase health insurance outside of the ObamaCare exchanges, including:
- From an insurance provider. You can purchase a health insurance plan directly from a health insurance provider. There are literally countless companies that offer health insurance plans that will offer coverage in your area. Do some research to find out what providers do provide coverage and comparison shop. Most providers have websites where you can compare the different plans that they offer, including the coverage options and the costs. If you have further questions, you can contact the company that you are interested in working with directly.
- Through an insurance agent. Another option is to seek the help of an insurance agent. An agent will guide you through the different plans that a health insurance company offers and help you determine which coverage option will best suit your needs. You won’t have to pay extra to work with an agent, as they are usually paid by the company that they are employed by.
- Through a broker. If you don’t have a specific company in mind that you want to purchase health insurance from, you could work with a broker. Insurance brokers sell health care plans from several different providers. You would tell them your needs and they would provide you with a number of different plans from a variety of health insurance companies, which really gives you the chance to weigh your options. Again, you usually don’t have to pay any extra fees to secure health insurance through a broker because typically, they are paid by the company that they sell plans for.
- Through an online health insurance service. Similar to a broker, an online health insurance service offers a variety of plans from several different insurance companies. You would input your information into their database and the website would provide you with quotes from the companies that they have access to. You’ll be able to comparison shop and see the various options that are available to you; once you decide on a company and a plan that you would like to purchase, you can enroll directly through the site. Generally, there is no additional cost associated with using an online health insurance service.
Reasons to Purchase Health Insurance Outside the ACA Exchanges
Most people who purchase health insurance through the exchange do so because they qualify for tax subsidies, as mentioned above. However, if you do not qualify for these subsidies, then there are a number of reasons why buying outside of the Affordable Care Act exchanges might be beneficial. Some of the most notable benefits include:
- More choices. The primary benefit of purchasing your health insurance off-exchange is that you will have access to a lot more choices. Each health plan that is offered on your state’s ACA exchange has to be offered off the exchange, as well; furthermore, these plans have to be offered for the same price. However, you will also have access to many health insurance plans that are not available on the exchange. That’s because insurance providers are not required to offer all of the plans that they offer on the exchange; therefore, you will have access to many more options when you shop off the exchange.
- More in-network providers. You’ll also find that there a lot more health care providers work with the health insurance plans that are offered off the exchange. For example, on the exchange, you may not have access to the doctors or healthcare facilities that you prefer to work when you purchase a policy on the ACA exchange; but off-exchange policies tend to have more doctors and hospitals in their network.
- Medication coverage. Providers have the option to limit the medications that they cover for policies that are offered on the exchange; however, they tend to offer more coverage and reimbursements for medications with the policies that they offer off the exchange.