Where to buy coverage

As mandated by the Affordable Care Act, nearly all Americans are now required to have health coverage or face penalties. Here's where you can search for a plan:

Through your employer

While the Affordable Care Act set up a new system of purchasing individual health coverage, the system of employer-provided care was left largely in place. In fact, more companies are required to provide coverage to their workers, with some exceptions for small businesses. If you work for an employer who offers health insurance, that is probably going to be your most affordable option. Many employers offer a menu of plans for workers to choose from.

On a health exchange

If you're buying insurance on your own, you've got to shop around for the best price. You can shop the federal health exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, or find your state exchange, by going to Healthcare.gov. Most states have various plan options available at different prices. What's more, the federal government offers subsidies to people with income below a certain level. Currently, subsidies are available to those making less than $95,400 a year for a family of four. The lower your annual income, the more generous the subsidy.

Insurance companies also sell plans directly to consumers outside of the federal exchange, but the plans are pretty similar and you won't receive a subsidy.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against you because you have preexisting conditions, but you will likely still pay more if you are older, and plan pricing varies widely from state to state.

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