A quick guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace

5 tips about the Health Insurance Marketplace

Here’s a quick look at the Health Insurance Marketplace (sometimes known as the health insurance “exchange” or “Obamacare exchange”).

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1. The Marketplace is for people without health coverage

If you don’t have health insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or another source of qualifying coverage, the Marketplace can help you get covered.

  • If you have job-based insurance: You can buy a Marketplace plan, but you’ll pay full price unless your job-based insurance doesn’t meet certain standards. Most job-based plans do.
  • If you have Medicare: You can’t switch to Marketplace insurance, use a Marketplace plan as a supplement, or buy a Marketplace dental plan. Learn about Medicare and the Marketplace.

2. 2017 Open Enrollment runs from November 1, 2016 through January 31, 2017

  • Enroll by December 15, 2016 for coverage starting January 1, 2017.
  • After January 31, you can enroll in 2017 health insurance only if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

See all Marketplace dates and deadlines.

3. What you pay for insurance depends on your income — and you’ll probably save

Your savings depend on your expected household income for the year. Over 8 in 10 people who apply are eligible to save, and most can find plans for between $50 and $100 per month (after accounting for their premium tax credit). Get a quick idea if you'll save.

Based on your income estimate, we’ll tell you if you qualify for:

A health insurance plan with savings

You may qualify for a premium tax credit that lowers your monthly insurance bill, and for extra savings on out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copayments.

The plans are offered by private insurance companies with a range of prices and features. All plans cover:

You can add dental, but you don’t have to. You can’t buy a dental plan unless you enroll in a health plan.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Medicaid and CHIP provide free or low-cost coverage to millions of people and families with limited income, disabilities, and some other situations.

4. You can apply for coverage 4 ways

Apply any way that works for you:

  • Online
  • By phone
  • With in-person help
  • With a paper application

5. If you don’t have health insurance, you may have to pay a fee

Most people must have qualifying health coverage or pay a penalty.

  • For 2016, the penalty is either 2.5% of your income, or $695 per adult ($347.50 per child) — whichever is higher. The fee rises with inflation. Final 2017 fees will be published soon. Learn about the fee.
  • Some people qualify for an exemption from the health insurance requirement.

IMPORTANT: Still need 2016 health coverage?

If you still need health insurance coverage for the rest of 2016, you can get it only 2 ways: