Benefits marketplaces can help employers compare and contrast different plan options.
One of the many changes that the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, established was healthcare benefits marketplaces (sometimes called exchanges). The act required that exchanges be established in all states and Washington D.C. Most states have opted to just use healthcare.gov, the federal exchange, but 13 states have established their own exchanges and private exchanges have cropped up as well.
While all employers big and small are required to make their employees aware of the marketplace, using them to compare and contrast different options (versus, say, using a broker) is completely optional. Here’s why you should take the time to do it digitally.
First, what is a digital marketplace?
A benefits marketplace is a digital place where you can buy a health insurance plan.
A benefits marketplace is a digital place where you can buy a health insurance plan. In general, states have 2 types of exchanges: an exchange for individuals and a SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) exchange for small businesses.
Then there are private exchanges that offer the same services but also show plans that aren’t available in state or federally run marketplaces. These plans still have to meet the same requirements as plans on government run exchanges except for the fact that they don’t have to offer plans across all of the tiers that are categorized by metals: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.
Zenefits Health Insurance Marketplace helps employers search for the top benefits plans near them. Through the Zenefits marketplace, SMBs can shop for a group insurance quote supported by a certified broker and carrier and view options up to 40% cheaper.
There are still many ways that people can enroll in health insurance benefits. You can enroll directly with an insurer or you can use:
- An insurance broker (someone who typically sells insurance from one company), or
- An insurance agent (someone who sells plans for several different companies)
Using a digital benefits marketplace creates more choice in one place
While those who are more comfortable interacting with fellow humans rather than a digital website might be inclined to go the insurance company, agent, or broker route, there are some obvious drawbacks.
First, you’re working with people whose job it is to sell you something, often from a specific company. So you’ll be getting the best that a single or a handful of companies can offer, but you won’t necessarily be getting the best plan available if it exists outside of the company or companies being represented.
Digital marketplaces, on the other hand, show nearly all of the plans available in a given area.
Digital marketplaces can make it easier to compare plans
Beyond simply showing the plans that are available, a digital benefits marketplace makes it easy to compare and contrast plans side by side. This way, it’s easier for users to see everything from what premiums and copays would be to which doctors are in-network across different plans simultaneously.
Beyond simply showing the plans that are available, a digital benefits marketplace makes it easy to compare and contrast plans side by side.
Marketplaces can help to see if you qualify for subsidies and other cost-saving programs
Perhaps the biggest benefit of using a digital exchange is that it helps you see if you qualify for public health insurance programs from subsidies like tax credits to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. If you qualify for one of these programs, you can still apply it to programs through a private exchange if you’d like, but a private exchange won’t be able to tell you if you qualify for them in the first place.
One thing to note about marketplaces, though, is that they’re only for health insurance benefits. If you’re looking for something like life insurance you won’t be able to find that on an exchange.
If you’re ready to get shopping on a marketplace, good news — President Joe Biden just opened a special enrollment period from February 15 to May 15, 2021 for all Americans. Designed to undo the restrictions that the previous administration places on enrollment (narrowing it to just a six-week window), anyone without insurance can use the special enrollment period to sign up for some. Plus, individuals making around $51,000 or less and families of four making around $104,800 are eligible for subsidies.