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This tool provides an easy way to compare health insurance quotes for individual health plans. Individual health insurance plans are policies you buy on your own, rather than through work. This tool shows plans that are offered through state and federal health insurance marketplaces. These are only health plans for which you can get tax subsidies to lower your monthly payments, if you qualify.

Why buy health insurance

The federal Affordable Care Act requires that all Americans (with few exceptions) buy health insurance, or be subject to an Obamacare penalty. For 2017, that penalty could be 2.5% of your household income or more.

But also, having health insurance is the best way to protect your family from high medical bills. If someone in your family gets sick or is injured, hospital costs could quickly reach thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of dollars.

When to buy health insurance

You can only sign up for health insurance during open enrollment. Open enrollment for 2017 health insurance marketplace plans is Nov. 1, 2016, through Jan. 31, 2017. Outside of that time window, the only way to buy individual health insurance is to qualify for a special enrollment period. That’s why it’s important to get health insurance quotes and make a choice during the open enrollment period.

How to compare plans

Finding the right plan for you and your family is just as important as getting covered in the first place. You may have several plans to choose from, depending on where you live. To make comparing medical insurance plans easier, policies are grouped into metal tiers: bronze, silver, gold or platinum.

You can think of the metal tiers similarly to how you think of the actual metals. The tiers relate to value, so the more valuable the metal, the more richly it reimburses your medical expenses.

Within those tiers, the monthly premiums — how much you pay to have health insurance — should be relatively similar. The most popular health insurance marketplace plans are silver plans, with 70% of consumers choosing a silver plan.

However, there’s much more to comparing health insurance quotes than looking at premiums. Deductibles, copays and coinsurance might all be different, so you’ll want to take a close look at those out-of-pocket costs while you compare.

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