What Should You Know About Getting Insurance Through the Federal Exchange?

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November brings with it crisper weather, family gatherings, and excitement (or sometimes anxiety) about the upcoming holiday season. For those who don't have employer-sponsored health insurance, November 1 also marks the first day of open enrollment on the federal insurance exchange. If you've never purchased insurance on your own before, you may be apprehensive after hearing widespread news coverage on premium increases for insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act. However, increases in the subsidy amounts available to many consumers can help offset these costs. What should you know about purchasing insurance through the exchange for the first time? Read on to learn more about this process and how you can cut your healthcare costs. 

Where should you begin when seeking insurance coverage through the federal exchange?

The initial glitches with the federal health insurance website at healthcare.gov have largely been resolved, and you'll want to begin your journey at this website to get an idea of the available plans and coverages in your area. In some cases, you may be able to find the perfect plan at the perfect cost without going any further. In other situations, you may be dissatisfied with the coverage or prices offered on the federal website and need more personalized help through an insurance agent or broker who specializes in matching customers with healthcare policies. A healthcare broker can also help you take advantage of any available discounts of which you might otherwise be unaware.

How can you keep your insurance costs low?

If you're not sure you can afford insurance through the exchange, but your assets or income are too high for you to qualify for Medicaid, you may be able to lower your insurance costs through one or more federal subsidies. These subsidies are available to those whose household income falls within a certain range and whose projected insurance premiums are set to eat up a certain percentage of this income. By applying subsidies to your premium (or giving them to you in the form of a hefty refund at tax time), the government will be able to knock your premium down to a more affordable rate. 

Although these subsidies are federal in nature, they're based in part on the cost of living in certain areas, so it's all but impossible to get an exact figure on how much you can receive without plugging in your own numbers on the federal exchange website or working with an insurance agent or broker to get more reliable numbers. Talk to companies such as Quesenberry Agency For Blue Cross-Blue Shield to find out what rates you can get for health insurance.