How do the benefits differ? What would you owe in out-of-pocket costs if you were to be injured or get seriously ill? How does that compare with your out-of-pocket exposure on the employer-sponsored plan? Are your doctors in the network of the individual plan? You'll want to carefully consider all of these things before switching, and keep in mind that you won't be able to rejoin your employer's plan until the next open enrollment window offered by your employer.
But the ACA changed all that. Medical underwriting is no longer used, although applicants can now only enroll during open enrollment or a special enrollment period triggered by a qualifying event (similar to how enrollment works for employer-sponsored plans). Essential health benefits are now covered on all new individual major medical plans in every state. And millions of people are receiving premium subsidies that cover the majority of their premiums for plans purchased in each state’s health insurance exchange (the ACA’s consumer protection reforms apply to plans sold outside the exchanges as well, but the subsidies are only available in the exchange). The ACA also limits the percentage of premiums that insurers can use for administrative costs, including profits and executives’ salaries; insurers have refunded billions of dollars to consumers as a result of the new rules.

However, they might still be able to find a less expensive plan in the individual/family market, even paying full price for the premiums. It would almost certainly have a higher deductible and out-of-pocket exposure than the plan Doug's employer offers, but that might be a trade-off that the family considers worthwhile. Doug might find that his employer-sponsored coverage for just himself is very affordable, since employers often pay more towards the employee's premiums than they pay towards additional family members' premiums. So Doug's family might opt to keep Doug on the employer-sponsored plan and get an individual market plan for his wife and kids.


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