Choosing the right plan means understanding your medical needs, including what healthcare providers and treatments you’ll use, and then figuring out your budget and if you are eligible for cost assistance.  That will narrow down which tier of metal plan to get, then you’ll compare benefits of those plans.

Actuarial value
Actuarial value is the average amount a plan will pay for covered services for everyone using the plan, it is not what the plan will pay you specifically.  Premiums and costs not covered by your plan don’t factor into determining actuarial value, only costs insurers’ pay count.

Types of Metal Plans
Each metal plan has a minimum average actuarial value which can be used to tell how good a plan is, what type of subsidies it qualifies you for based on income, and if it provides minimum value.

NOTE: All marketplace plans have a maximum out-of-pocket cost no more than $6,600 for an individual and $13,200 for a family. The plan must also provide at least ten essential benefits as part of their covered benefits.

Idaho Health Insurance: The Plans

1. Bronze plans split covered expenses 60-40 on average.
Bronze plans are the cheapest plans.  All employer plans and non-catastrophic marketplace plans must provide at least the value of a bronze plan.

For a Bronze plan with 60% actuarial the insurer will, on average, pay 60 % of covered health expenses while the policy holder must come up with the other 40%. In other words a plan with 60% actuarial value covers 60% of out-of-pocket costs on average for all policy holders, not just you.

Bronze plans have the most basic benefits and most limited networks of doctors and hospitals.  The actuarial value reflects this since that percentage is determined by the average expenses your insurer will have.

A Bronze plan is a good choice for those who don’t plan on using many medical services.  Many low-income Americans may qualify for free or very low-cost Bronze plans.  That being said in many cases a Silver plan will provide better value as Bronze plans won’t qualify for Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies (CSR).  You will be getting a low premium in exchange for the fact that you will pay more out-of-pocket and have a more narrow network.

More than 50% of all medical costs are incurred by a very few unfortunate people.  Since your deductible will be high and all plans have the same maximum limits on the amount you can pay in a year, most of the costs you pay for a Bronze plan will go to the unfortunate people who get cancer or have a bad accident and reach their cost sharing limit.

2. Silver plans split covered expenses 70-30 on average.
Silver plans are “the marketplace standard” meaning that premium caps are based on the cost of Silver plans. A Silver plan on the marketplace can’t cost more than 9.5% of your income if you make less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) due to Advanced Premium Tax Credits. The less you make, the lower your premium cap is.

Like Bronze Plans, the actual value of Silver plans can range.  They simply must have at least a 70% actuarial value.
Silver plans are the only plans eligible for Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies (CSR)

A Silver level plan is a good choice for individuals and families who have access to marketplace subsidies, especially CSR subsidies.  If you make below 250% FPL the chances you won’t find your best plan to be a marketplace Silver plan is slim.  Go with an HMO when in doubt, you’ll need referrals, but this will be your cheapest option.  Like with any other plan, make sure your medical needs are covered in-network.

3. Gold plans split covered expenses 80-20 on average.
Gold plans cost a little more, but the lower deductibles and better out-of-pocket cost sharing coverage means that families won’t have to worry about health care costs stopping them from their families getting the care they need. Even if your premium is capped you’ll have to pay more to make up the difference if you want a gold plan.

Gold plans are smart for those who don’t get CSR subsidies and need the low deductible and robust networks some gold plans provide.

4. Platinum plans split covered expenses 90-10 on average.
Platinum plans have the lowest out-of-pocket costs and the highest monthly premiums. This is the right choice for anyone who wants “the best coverage” for them and their family and is a smart buy for those who are sick or who have dependents who are likely to use costly health services. Even if your premium is capped you’ll have to pay more to make up the difference if you want a Platinum plan.

Platinum plans only make sense if your total medical spending will exceed the amount you will pay in premiums or if you need very specific treatments.

5. Catastrophic Coverage
Catastrophic coverage is available to some people under 30 and those with hardship exemptions. Catastrophic plans only cover the bare minimum health benefits and has a very limited network. You’ll have high out-of-pocket costs and a high deductible but this type of plan will protect you in a worst case scenario and will ensure that you avoid paying the shared responsibly fee for not having health coverage. If you get a catastrophic plan you should assume most of your medical costs will be out-of-pocket.

NOTE: You can also get covered through Medicaid on the marketplace.  As a rule of thumb if you make less than 250% FPL a Silver plan is the way to go, if you make less than 138% and your state expanded Medicaid then you’ll go with Medicaid.

Idaho health insurers don’t have to offer every tier of plan, but within the Idaho health insurance Exchanges, all health insurance companies must offer at least one silver plan and one gold plan to consumers.

Idaho Insurance Exchange: Factors that Affect Rates
ObamaCare does away with pre-existing conditions and gender discrimination so these factors will no longer affect the cost of your insurance. Please be aware location, income, smoking status, family size and age all affect the cost of your health insurance premium. So the cost of their plan will fluctuate from person to person and from family to family. Please keep this in mind when shopping for insurance on the Idaho health insurance exchange.

Choosing a Health Care Plan: How to Calculate the Cost of Health Insurance
To get started you’ll want to figure out what your budget is for health care this year. Affordable health insurance is defined as 8% of your income. Take your income for last year and find out if you can afford to pay 8%, if not find a number that you feel you can pay. Now that you have an idea of what you can afford, it’s time to take a look at the cost calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation to get an idea of what you will pay on the Idaho health insurance exchange. This will give you an estimate of what you and your family will owe. Keep in mind that health, age and other factors can increase or decrease the cost of your insurance.

How to Get Started Using the Insurance Exchanges
If you live in Idaho, Your Health Idaho is the Health Insurance Marketplace to serve you. Instead of HealthCare. gov, you’ll use the Your Health Idaho website to apply for coverage, compare plans, and enroll. The Idaho health insurance marketplace is only open during open enrollment.