Because the benefits will be similar, the biggest difference among plans will be something called "actuarial value." A new term for consumers, it's the share of expected health care costs that the plan will cover.
There will be four levels of coverage, from "bronze," which will cover 60 percent of expected costs, to "platinum," which will cover 90 percent. "Silver" and "gold" are in between. Bronze plans will charge the lowest premiums, but they'll have the highest annual deductibles. Platinum plans will have the highest premiums and the lowest out-of-pocket cost sharing.
Here's a wrinkle: The government's subsidy will be tied to the premium for the second-lowest-cost plan at the silver coverage level that's available in your area. You could take it and buy a lower cost bronze plan, saving money on premiums. But you'd have to be prepared for the higher annual deductible and copayments.
___Online: Federal government health care site: www.healthcare.gov Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator: http://healthreform.kff.org/subsidycalculator.aspx