DEFINITION of 'Health Plan Categories'

Four types of health insurance plans that are differentiated based on the average percentage of health-care expenses that will be paid by the plan. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the U.S. health reform enacted March 23, 2010, health insurance plans are offered in four actuarial levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The level defines the amount of expenses each type of plan covers. The higher the actuarial value (i.e. Gold and Platinum), the more the plan will pay, on average, toward health-care expenses; the lower the actuarial value (Bronze and Silver), the less the plan will pay.

BREAKING DOWN 'Health Plan Categories'

On average, the actuarial values for the four coverage tiers are:

  • Bronze = 60%
  • Silver = 70%
  • Gold = 80%
  • Platinum = 90%

All plans cover the same set of Essential Health Benefits. Because each plan is different in terms of deductible, copayments and coinsurance amounts, your share of the costs may come in the form of a large deductible with low coinsurance (for example, a $4,000 deductible with 10% coinsurance) or a small deductible with high coinsurance (such as a $1,500 deductible with 30% coinsurance). With all health plans, consumers pay a monthly fee known as a premium whether or not they use health-care services. Premiums are typically higher for plans that pay more of your medical expenses when you get care, such as Gold and Platinum plans. In general, premiums are also higher for plans that have lower deductibles and lower coinsurance amounts.

In addition to the four “metallic” coverage tiers, a catastrophic level is available to people under age 30 and to certain people over age 30 who are granted hardship exemptions based on income and other circumstances that would prevent them from getting a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum plan. There are 12 reasons for which someone may be granted a hardship exemption, including being homeless, having substantial property damage resulting from fire, flood or other disaster, and filing for bankruptcy in the last six months.

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