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Where to Buy Individual Health Insurance

The Affordable Care Act dramatically changes the availability, cost, and benefits of individual health insurance plans. The law guarantees access to comprehensive and affordable plans without discrimination against you due to current health conditions. If you are ready to enter the single market, you have four options for choosing a plan.

  1. Individual insurance Exchanges (marketplaces)
  2. Insurance companies
  3. Health insurance agents / brokers
  4. Web brokers

Individual insurance Exchanges (marketplaces)

  • How it works: These are government-run online exchanges created through the Affordable Care Act. You can find your country's stock exchange at You create an account and provide information about your family, income, age, and any health insurance provided by the employer. Then you can compare the plans and see how much each one will cost. You can also find out if you qualify for a tax credit or help to pay for plans.
  •  Advantages: Easily see what plans are available in your area, including cost, provider network, and benefits. But perhaps the biggest advantage of buying your insurance on the stock market is that you may qualify for tax credits and benefits. These can reduce the cost of insurance premiums and copays.
  • Disadvantages: Some of the exchanges were difficult to navigate.

Insurance companies

  • How it works: You can go directly to the insurance company's website or call the company for information on available plans. You can even sign up for plans online or over the phone.
  • Advantages: You work with an insurance company that can guide you through your plans.
  • Disadvantages: If you purchased directly from an insurance company, you are not eligible for any premium tax credits. It is also not easy to compare plans between insurance companies.

Health insurance agents / brokers

  • How they work: Health insurance agents work for a company, so your options are limited. The brokers, however, are independent and represent many companies. Agents and brokers must be licensed to sell health insurance in their state. And they must work with anyone who comes close to them, regardless of their income. They also need to receive special training and certification to sell insurance on exchanges. In some cases, they must also register with the federal government. You can find a health insurance agent or broker at the National Association of Health Insurance Agents,
  • Advantages: Both can help you find insurance on exchanges or directly from insurance companies. They can also provide expert advice along the way.
  • Disadvantages: Insurance companies pay fees to brokers and agents, so there may be a bias in directing you to the plans that provide the highest commission. Brokers may also charge you separate fees. Also, if you buy an OTC plan, you are not eligible for any tax credit or relief.

Web brokers

  • How they work: Web brokers like and operate private websites. These sites can enroll you directly in health insurance plans, including public exchange plans.
  •  Advantages: You can view and sign up for plans from various insurance companies. Web brokers must list all eligible health plans listed on public exchanges. But they can't order the plans in a way that can direct you to a specific plan. They also have to reveal who pays them and how and cannot charge separate fees.
  • Disadvantages: Not all states allow web brokers to register people for public exchanges. Also, the insurance company pays a fee to the brokers, so there may still be a bias to direct you towards the plans that provide the highest commission. Also, if you buy an OTC plan, you are not eligible for any tax credit or relief.