What is a Health Insurance Exchange?

A health insurance exchange is a place where consumers can compare health insurance plans, consider options, and purchase coverage. The federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace is the largest health insurance exchange and allows consumers from many different states to compare health plans available from insurers within their respective states.  Some states have established their own health insurance exchanges, and therefore do not utilize the federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace.

The goal of a health insurance exchange, also commonly referred to as a health benefit exchange, is two-fold.  First, it allows consumers to make apples-to-apples comparisons of one company’s health plans to another.  Second, the health insurance exchange affords the consumer an opportunity to qualify for an advanced premium tax credit that could lower the monthly cost of insurance.

What are the benefits of a health insurance exchange?

Health benefit exchanges improve health insurance plans in the areas of:

  • Transparency: Insurers are required to share information on plan costs and quality in an easy to understand way that allows consumers to know exactly what they are getting.
  • Affordability: Tax credits are available to help offset the costs of plans purchased on health insurance exchanges.
  • Competition: Exchanges are designed to make insurance markets more competitive.

Under the ACA (Affordable Care Act) all insurance plans offered on a health benefit exchange must fall into one of four metallic actuarially valued groups – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.  A Bronze plan from one insurer should have a benefit package very similar to a Bronze plan from another insurer.  So a consumer that decides to select Bronze level coverage is able to choose between different insurers on a health insurance exchange based on network, price, reputation and service – with the confidence of knowing they offer the same benefits.

Even with the advent of health insurance exchanges, consumers continue to derive tremendous benefits from the free assistance offered to them by trained and authorized agents.  The agents at WNC Health Insurance have undergone a significant amount of training and are qualified to guide North Carolina consumers through the intricacies of selecting a plan on the federally facilitated health insurance exchange.