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3 Alternatives to Buying Health Insurance from Public Exchanges

3 Alternatives to Buying Health Insurance from Public Exchanges

Posted Nov 21, 2017 by Jenifer Dorsey

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance plans that qualify as minimum essential coverage may be purchased on the state-based and federally facilitated exchanges. But did you know you can shop elsewhere?

You may buy Obamacare plans and other health benefits outside the ACA’s government exchanges. Here are three alternative ways to shop.

1. Agents and brokers

A licensed health insurance agent or broker can be especially helpful as you navigate the Affordable Care Act landscape. These individuals can:

  • Introduce you to ACA-compliant health insurance plans available on and away from your state’s exchange
  • Explore additional types of coverage such as short-term medical, supplemental, dental insurance and hospital plans
  • Assist you in selecting benefits that accommodate your budgetary and healthcare needs.

Learn more about working with an agent or broker.  

What to know: Be aware that not all health insurance agents and brokers will sell all health insurance plans available in your region.
Use Agent Finder to search for local assistance.

2. Online marketplaces other than HealthCare.gov and state exchanges

Whether or not you enroll in an Obamacare plan, you will likely have out-of-pocket medical expenses in the year to come. Shop websites such as healthedeals.com for help finding a range of healthcare benefits, not just ACA-qualified coverage.

Additional benefits to consider include dental, hospital, supplemental and telemedicine plans. Furthermore, if you are without an ACA-qualified major medical plan, you can also purchase temporary benefits in the form of a short-term medical plan or medical bundle that pairs a hospital plan and short-term medical plan.

Learn more about additional coverage that complements your major medical insurance, and get a quick quote.


What to know: These marketplaces do have licensed producers on staff who can guide you through your options, answer your Obamacare and health insurance questions, and help you find the right health insurance plan. They also allow you to get a quote, apply and enroll online, 24/7.

ACA-qualified major medical policies are subject to the health insurance open enrollment period. Alternative and supplemental health insurance coverage can be purchased at anytime.  

3. Health insurance carriers

You can buy directly from health insurance companies that sell ACA-qualified plans away from the state-based and federally facilitated exchanges. Visit individual insurance company websites to learn more about individual and family health insurance plans they offer.

You can often get a quote and apply for health insurance coverage through these websites as well. Contact the company’s customer support to ask questions and get assistance.
What to know: Your state’s insurance department can be useful when it comes to finding health insurance carrier and agent licensing information, including complaints and financial information. Use the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s map to find your state’s insurance department.   

What to be aware of when buying insurance away from the exchanges

If you want to buy health insurance somewhere other than a state-based or federally facilitated health insurance exchange, be aware that:

  • You lose access to subsidies that you may qualify for. Income-based financial assistance in the form of premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies is only available for health insurance plans purchased on state-based and federally facilitated health insurance exchanges. Find out if you may qualify for subsidies using our ACA subsidy calculator.
  • The ACA mandates that all major medical health insurance plans sold by insurers even away from the exchanges be ACA-compliant. While these plans won't be part of a metal tier since they're not on the public exchanges, they do qualify as minimum essential coverage per ACA guidelines.

    In compliance with the Affordable Care Act, these plans will include certain preventive services at no additional cost and essential health benefits, cannot deny you or charge you more based on health history and preexisting conditions, and is categorized by metal level. 

What if you don’t buy minimum essential coverage?

If you don’t have an ACA-qualified plan, in addition to being subject to the individual mandate tax penalty, you need to consider how you will pay for healthcare should you need it.
Temporary health insurance coverage in the form of a short-term medical plan can help pay for unexpected medical expenses. These plans last as few as 30 days and as many as 90 days. It takes only a few minutes to apply, and your policy may begin as soon as the next day.

You may also consider a medical bundle that pairs short-term medical with a hospital plan. The short-term provides benefits that can help pay for larger medical expenses, while the hospital plan provides fixed benefits that help pay for covered medical expenses resulting from hospitalization, chemotherapy and radiation services.

If you're not sure where to start, just give the phone number on your screen a call and you can discuss your options with a knowledgeable health insurance advisor. 


Originally published Oct. 3, 2014.