First, depending on your income, you may be eligible for premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions to help lower the cost of coverage. You can only obtain those tax credits and cost-sharing reductions if you buy a plan through the health insurance marketplace.
Second, if you use the health insurance marketplace, you can compare plans and shop with confidence that all the plans displayed have been certified as meeting a minimum standard for coverage and quality.
Third, if you experience an income change during the year that makes you eligible for financial assistance, you will only be eligible to enroll in a plan with financial help if you are already enrolled in a marketplace plan. If you are uninsured or enrolled in an off-marketplace plan, an income change alone will not qualify you for a special enrollment period. (45 C.F.R. § 156.440; 45 C.F.R. § 155.420).