A health insurance Marketplace, also known as an Exchange, is where you can shop for and compare insurance plans in your state. You can do it online, through an insurance broker, or by phone. Your state's Marketplace has tools to help you compare your choices and pick the plan you need.
In a state Marketplace, health plans are grouped by levels of coverage -- how much they will pay toward the cost of your health care and what services are covered.
When Steven O'Shea, 42, a Michigan landscaper, fell out of a tree, his chainsaw cut halfway through his forearm. The uninsured father of four received a $39,000 bill from the plastic surgeon who operated on him. Though grateful for the care, O'Shea says, "I couldn't believe it. How was I going to pay a $39,000 bill?"
Christopher McCaughna, 50, of Seminole, Fla., lost his brother, Eric, at age 43 after a five-day hospitalization for a diabetic coma. Also uninsured, Eric left behind a $75,000 hospital...
Bronze plans offer the least coverage, and platinum plans offer the most.
How Do the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Levels Differ?
The levels vary by the percentage of costs you have to pay, on average, toward the health care you get.
Here are the percentages of health care costs you pay, on average, for each type of plan:
Bronze plan: 40%
Silver plan: 30%
Gold plan: 20%
Platinum plan: 10%
You pay your portion of these costs is in deductibles, copays, and coinsurance.
In general, the more you pay in monthly premiums, the less you pay out of your own pocket each time you go for a health care service or to pick up a prescription. A premium is what you pay each month to have insurance.
As an example, consider the differences in the bronze and platinum plans.
With a bronze plan:
The amount you pay each time you see your doctor or get a prescription (your "out-of-pocket" cost) is the highest among the different plan levels. But, with a bronze plan, you also generally pay the lowest premium each month, compared with other metal plans.
With a platinum plan:
Compared with the other plan levels, you are likely to pay less each time you see your doctor or get a prescription. But with a platinum plan, you'll also pay the highest monthly premium.