Health Insurance Marketplace: Glossary of Terms

Affordable Care Act: 

The comprehensive health care reform law enacted in March 2010. 

Application Assistance: 

There are people available in every state to help consumers understand the enrollment process, their health plan options and the application. These helpers have many different names, but the important thing is that they are there to help consumers. Depending on the state, they may be called navigators, in-person assisters, certified application counselors or something else. No matter what they are called, they are there to provide unbiased assistance. 

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): 

This program provides health coverage to nearly 8 million children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private coverage. 

Financial Assistance: 

Financial assistance is available to help people pay for health insurance if they enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. For those who qualify for financial assistance, the government pays a portion of health insurance premiums directly to the health insurance companies every month. This lowers the amount of money qualifying people have to pay for health insurance premiums every month. 

Health Insurance Marketplace (Exchange): 

The Health Insurance Marketplace (Exchange) is a way to compare and purchase health insurance plans. Every state has one, and it provides people with choices of insurers and plans that are affordable and in a way that makes it easy to understand and compare them. 

Health Insurance Requirement: 

As part of the health care law, most Americans need to have health insurance. People without health insurance may need to pay a penalty. Uninsured people do not have to pay a penalty if they have very low income and coverage is unaffordable, or for other reasons including religious beliefs. People can apply for a waiver asking not to pay a penalty if they are not automatically exempt. 


A state-administered health insurance program for low-income families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with disabilities and, in some states, other adults. In January 2014, many states started allowing more people to enroll in Medicaid. A number of states are expanding Medicaid coverage, while several states are not moving forward at this time. To see which states have expanded Medicaid, visit:


A federal health insurance program for people who are age 65 or older and certain younger people with disabilities. 

Open Enrollment Period: 

The period of time when people can enroll in coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The 2016 open enrollment period runs from November 1, 2015, through January 31, 2016. 



Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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