A quick guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace

5 tips about the Health Insurance Marketplace

IMPORTANT: Still need 2016 health coverage?

Open Enrollment for 2016 insurance is over. You can sign up for a 2017 health plan starting November 1, 2016, with coverage starting as soon as January 1, 2017.

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

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

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. 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 for lower premiums. 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.

3. 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

4. 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.

5. 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.