On-Marketplace vs Off-Marketplace Health Insurance: A Detailed Guide

On-Marketplace vs Off-Marketplace Health Insurance: A Detailed Guide OnOff Marketplace scaled

Choosing the right health insurance can be a complex process, especially when it comes to understanding the differences between on-marketplace and off-marketplace plans. Both types of plans offer unique features, and understanding these can help you make an informed decision about which is best for your needs.

On-Marketplace vs Off-Marketplace: What’s the Difference?

On-marketplace plans are health insurance policies available on government-run exchanges, such as Healthcare.gov or a state-run exchange. These plans must meet specific standards set by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including coverage for ten essential health benefits like outpatient care, emergency services, hospitalization, and prescription drugs.

Off-marketplace plans, on the other hand, are sold directly by insurance companies or through brokers. These plans also adhere to ACA standards, but they don’t qualify for premium subsidies or cost-sharing reductions available through the marketplace.

Comparing On-Marketplace and Off-Marketplace Plans

Despite being sold in different places, on-marketplace and off-marketplace plans share many similarities. Both types of plans must cover the ten essential health benefits mandated by the ACA, including services like outpatient care, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services, and pediatric services.

However, there are also key differences between the two:

  1. Plan Design: The specific health insurance plan designs offered on and off the marketplace may vary. This means the same carrier may offer a bronze plan under one name on private websites, and a similar bronze plan with a different name and fewer benefits on a state’s Obamacare exchange.
  2. Provider Networks: Another critical difference between plans on and off the government marketplaces is their network variations. Health insurance carriers often lower their Obamacare exchange premium rates by only covering small, or “narrow”, networks of doctors.
  3. Insurance Carriers: Carrier options also vary on and off government exchanges. Some health insurance companies may be licensed to sell plans in your state, but only on a private website. Other carriers may only sell exchange-based health insurance.

Understanding Costs

If the exact same health insurance plan is sold in multiple places, that plan must be offered at the same price everywhere. Otherwise, different plans will have different rates. Under the ACA, rates on all plans cannot vary based on your health history or gender. They can vary, though, based on your age, location, and tobacco use.

Subsidies and Financial Assistance

One of the major advantages of on-marketplace plans is that they qualify for premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions if you meet certain income requirements. These subsidies can significantly reduce the cost of your health insurance. Off-marketplace plans, while they may be cheaper in some cases, do not qualify for these subsidies.


When choosing between on-marketplace and off-marketplace plans, it’s important to consider your individual needs and circumstances. If you qualify for subsidies, an on-marketplace plan may be the most cost-effective option. However, if you don’t qualify for subsidies and are looking for a wider range of plan options, an off-marketplace plan might be a better fit.

For more personalized assistance and guidance, consider reaching out to a health insurance agent or broker. At YourMedPlan.com, we have a team of experienced agents who can help you navigate the complexities of health insurance and find a plan that suits your needs.