Skip to Main Content

Health insurance exchange

You need to understand what a health insurance exchange is. Here’s what to know.

What is a health insurance exchange?

A health insurance exchange is an online health insurance marketplace available in all states and the District of Columbia that was put in place under health care reform. The exchange is designed to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to compare available health plans and find the one that suits their budget.

Deeper definition

In addition to the health insurance exchange website, assistance is available by phone and in person in certain locations. The health insurance exchange may be operated by the state or federal government.

Upon completing the application, you will see if you qualify for a tax subsidy to help pay for the premium or for a government safety-net program such as Medicaid.

The amount that you pay for health insurance depends on your income. Approximately eight in 10 people save money by shopping through the health insurance exchange.

Insurance through the health insurance exchange is available for people who do not already have insurance coverage through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

While these people still can browse and shop for insurance plans on the exchange, they will pay full price for them unless their employer’s plan does not meet the minimum standards.

Are you shopping for a plan? Learn more about evaluating a health insurance plan.

Health insurance exchange example

To visit the health insurance exchange, users go to or the website for their state-operated exchange during the enrollment period. Users specify their state and ZIP code, then begin the application.

The documents and information needed to apply are Social Security numbers, income information for the entire family, policy numbers for current insurance and any other information about job-related health insurance.

After completing the application, you can browse the available plans and select the one that matches your needs and your budget. Rather than getting estimates from each company individually, the exchange lists and compares them all in one place. Once you enroll in a plan, you make payments directly to the insurance company rather than to the health insurance exchange.

Not sure if you need to browse the health insurance exchange? Learn more about Obamacare exchanges vs. employer health insurance.


More From Bankrate