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There are other plans available year-round that are not individual major medical coverage. Most of these plans are not recommended as stand-alone coverage (with the exception of short-term plans, which can be adequate stand-alone coverage if you're healthy and you know that you need the coverage for only a short time; they are usually not at all adequate for longer-term coverage). These plans are not regulated by the Affordable Care Act, which means they can exclude pre-existing conditions, impose dollar caps on your coverage, and don't have to cover the ACA's essential health benefits. In most cases, these plans cannot really be compared with an employer-sponsored plan, since the coverage will be so much lower quality. If an insurance offer sounds too good to be true, read the fine print carefully. It may end up being a poor substitute for real health insurance, and you don't want to learn those details after you have a major claim.
Nearly a century later, private health insurance continues to dominate the U.S. health care landscape. Despite attempts by U.S. Presidents, including Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, government-sponsored universal health care never materialized. And, although President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law in the 1960s to provide a safety net for citizens over age 65, the majority of Americans under 65 continue to get their health care from private insurers.
If the coverage available through your employer feels unaffordable, you can shop around online to see what's available. You may be able to find an individual market policy that will provide you with the coverage you need but is less expensive than the premium you pay at work. This is unlikely to be the case if your plan only covers yourself, since your employer is likely subsidizing a good chunk of the total premiums for the plan offered through your job. But some employer-sponsored plans require the employee to cover the full cost of adding family members, so it's possible that your family members could get a better deal with a separate policy.
A good place to start is HealthCare.gov. This is the health insurance exchange created by the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and is a one-stop shop for private individual market health insurance plans (note that the exchange itself is run by the government, but the health plans for sale in the exchange are all private, from the health insurance companies with which you're already familiar). People in 39 states use HealthCare.gov to enroll in individual market plans. The other 11 states and the District of Columbia have state-run exchanges, and you'll be directed to their sites from HealthCare.gov when you select your state.
Attention: This website is operated by HealthMarkets Insurance Agency and is not the Health Insurance Marketplace website. In offering this website, HealthMarkets Insurance Agency is required to comply with all applicable federal laws, including the standards established under 45 CFR 155.220(c) and (d) and standards established under 45 CFR 155.260 to protect the privacy and security of personally identifiable information. This website may not display all data on Qualified Health Plans being offered in your state through the Health Insurance Marketplace website. To see all available data on Qualified Health Plan options in your state, go to the Health Insurance Marketplace website at HealthCare.gov.
Individual and family health insurance plans can help cover expenses in the case of serious medical emergencies, and help you and your family stay on top of preventative health-care services. Having health insurance coverage can save you money on doctor's visits, prescriptions drugs, preventative care and other health-care services. Typical health insurance plans for individuals include costs such as a monthly premium, annual deductible, copayments, and coinsurance.