While the newest way to purchase health insurance may be the federal health insurance exchange, or Marketplace, it is not the only way consumers can get coverage. Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant plans are available by purchasing through an agent, broker or direct from an insurance carrier, like Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
While some consumers will qualify for subsidies through the ACA, many will not. For those who earn too much to qualify for subsidies, weighing their insurance options both on and off the Marketplace should be a priority. According to a CNN Money article, posted on Sept. 5, there are several reasons consumers might consider looking outside of the Marketplace for their health coverage:
Additional advantages OFF the exchange
Insurers off the exchange may offer richer policies, more comprehensive networks or lower drug costs to retain their customers. On-exchange policies may be more restrictive (offer less) in order to control premium costs and keep plans attractive.
Less paperwork OFF the exchange
Those who are eligible for subsidies on the exchange face considerable proof-of-need paperwork. They are required to set up online accounts; gather pay stubs or W2 forms; and present official verification of income and citizenship. When purchasing off exchange, income verification is not necessary and you are able to shop for carrier products using a broker, calling the carrier directly or using the carrier websites to compare and enroll in plans.
Less government involvement OFF the exchange
CNN-Money reported some of those they interviewed oppose government interference in their lives, have political differences with the current administration, or resist government assistance programs.
All health insurance plans are required to have the same ACA-compliant protections, regardless of whether they are purchased within or outside the Marketplace, to ensure consumers have access to the health care they need. Many times, off-exchange plans provide broader choices for consumers—especially those who will not benefit from subsidies or tax credits. ACA-compliant plans purchased outside the Marketplace will also avoid the 3.5 percent exchange user fee and other ACA taxes.
Wellmark’s enrollment website, Wellmark.com, launched on Oct. 1, and offers consumer the freedom to shop and compare without registering personal or financial data.  For consumers who need more guidance, agents and brokers are the best resource to get your questions answered and to ensure that you choose the best plan for you and your family.