ObamaCare’s Bronze Plan is a type of Metal Plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Bronze Plans qualify for Tax Credits and have low premiums. Other Metal Plans include Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Also a Catastrophic Plan is available to young adults and to some people with hardship exemptions.

All plans offer basic benefits and minimum cost sharing, Bronze Plans tend to offer the bare minimum in exchange for low premiums.

Bronze Plans, the Cheapest Premium

Bronze plans tend to have the lowest premiums of all Metal Plans. That is because they only have to provide 60% of cost sharing on average. Bronze plans provide an average cost sharing value (known as Actuarial Value AV) of 60%. This means that a Bronze plan must cover an average of 60% of all that plans enrollees covered out-of-pocket costs. This does not mean that 60% of actual costs will be covered for any one given person. In fact, a small minority of policy holders will account for the majority of costs. So actuarial value should always be looked at as a sign of how good a plan’s cost sharing is, not as a literal amount. Literal cost sharing amounts can be found on a plan’s benefit sheet.

Bronze Plans and Subsidies

Bronze plans don’t qualify for Cost Sharing Reduction Subsidies. However, they qualify for the largest Premium Tax Credit amounts. You’ll save more on a Bronze plan’s premium than you will on another type of Metal Plan, but many people will get better value by going with a Silver plan due to it’s Cost Sharing Reduction subsidy eligibility and other perks.

Should I Get a Bronze Plan?

If you make between 100%-250% of the Federal Poverty Level then we strongly suggest going with a Silver plan due to the perks of Cost Sharing Reduction Subsidies. For the little bit of extra premium you’ll have much better cost sharing, which means less out-of-pocket in an emergency. Typically you’ll have better benefits, networks, and cost sharing too.

If you want to risk it and save money, or if you don’t qualify for Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies, you should base plan choice on your projected annual medical needs over premiums. Bronze is good for catastrophic coverage for those who won’t use medical services, higher tiers are better for those who will use medical services in most cases. Make sure you understand your plan’s cost sharing structure, out-of-pocket maximums, and deductibles before making a plan choice.

Keep in mind that the Federal Poverty Level is based on annual household income, this means that if you lose or gain income during the year you cost assistance eligibility can change. Also keep in mind that you can’t change plans mid-year without qualifying for special enrollment, and even if you do qualify for special enrollment you’ll lose the money you have paid toward your cost sharing limits. It typically pays to get the right plan in the first place and often that means considering a HSA eligible Silver plan over a Bronze plan.

All Plans Provide Minimum Coverage

All plans must provide minimum benefits, minimum protections, and minimum value. No matter what plan you choose you’ll get a free wellness visit, free preventive care, and won’t be out more than your maximum in an emergency. Given this, for some Bronze plans will provide the best value. However, be prepared to pay full out-of-pocket costs on covered services. Consider a Health Savings Account to pay for that tax free, you’ll qualify with Bronze due to the high deductible.

Do I Have to Use the Marketplace?

If you want cost assistance, you have to get a Marketplace plan. However, a qualified health insurance agent, broker, or provider can help you shop for Marketplace plans they offer.