Frequently-asked questions.

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What do health insurance exchanges do?

Q: What do health insurance exchanges do?

A: The default description for state health insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act is “like Travelocity, except for health insurance.”

That’s a good analogy, but a health insurance exchange — or health insurance marketplace — does more than let you shop online for health insurance. State exchanges (which can be run by the state or by HHS, or a partnership between the two) also:

  • Present benefit options in a standard format — so it’s easy for consumers to compare plans
  • Assign price and quality ratings to health plans that sell insurance through the exchange
  • Operate a toll-free hotline
  • Provide an online calculator so consumers can determine their costs; the calculator factors in tax credits or subsidies available to the consumer
  • Set up a Navigator program to help consumers understand and purchase health insurance
  • Determine if consumers are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Certify the health plans that sell policies through the exchange
  • Certify which individuals are exempt from the individual mandate (although some exemptions can only be authorized by the IRS when you file your tax return)
  • Make sure health plans comply with regulatory standards and requirements

Read more FAQs about health reform and health insurance exchanges.