Beginning October 1, 2013, state and federally-sponsored health insurance marketplaces, commonly referred to as “exchanges,” will open. These exchanges will help you explore plan options and make decisions about your health insurance purchase. As the opening day for the exchanges gets closer, it becomes increasingly more important to know what information you need to have on hand before diving into the exchanges. Have personal information ready – You will need identifying information and social security numbers for each family member that needs health insurance.

Gather W-2s, tax returns, current pay stubs, and any other statements that have information about income for yourself and each member of your family that needs health insurance – With a clear idea of your household income, you will be able to better assess your eligibility for health insurance options and/or available government assistance .

Determine Your Eligibility – Depending on your household income, you may be eligible for a subsidy to help you pay for out-of-pocket expenses or a tax credit to help you pay for your health insurance premiums. 

Ask your employer what plans will be offered – Beginning on October 1, all employers are required to disclose if they are offering health insurance and if the plans they are offering will meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Understanding what your employer will provide can help you decide whether you want to enroll in your employer-provided plan or purchase a plan through the exchanges. If your employer is not offering health insurance options, you may be required to get health insurance by January 1, 2014 or face a penalty. 

Understand the types of coverage – Many different plan options will be offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces. Knowing how coverage works will help you choose a health plan that’s right for you. 

Know you’re looking for in a plan – Understanding what health insurance options are available, costs, and whether or not you will receive a subsidy will help you decide which plan fits your budget and how much you need to set aside each month to purchase insurance.