What Is A Health Insurance Exchange?

Oct 1, 2013

The federal government is rolling out one of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act this week, as mandated health insurance exchanges open their digital doors Oct. 1.

All this week we’ll be walking through some of the practical implications of Indiana’s exchange.

We continue with a look at what the exchange actually is, what it does, and who should use it. 


Credit Virginia Alvino

In Indiana the “exchange” or “healthcare marketplace” is federally-facilitated. It’s not a physical place, but an online space you can visit if you’re seeking health insurance, a way to shop for and compare specific health insurance plans – think Travelocity or Expedia.

In Northeast Indiana, four different providers will offer a few levels of plans to choose from.

Once you apply for the exchange, you can also learn how to get lower costs based on your income and family size, and actually enroll in a plan.

Almost anybody can go to the exchange to buy their healthcare plan, but IPFW professor and medical ethicist Abe Schwab says it isn’t meant for everyone.

"The most likely ones [to use the exchanges] are the people who are uninsured presently, or are about to become uninsured, or in some way don't have insurance either because they don't have a job, or their employer doesn't offer insurance at all or that is affordable, and the reason is because those people will be eligible for a federal subsidy," Schwab says.

October 1st is the open enrollment date for the exchange, meaning you can start applying for plans from then until March 31st.

The best way to apply for one of these plans is online at the federal government's exchange site, where you can also find a downloadable paper copy to mail in.