In a word, cost. If you don't have health insurance, the exchange opening Oct. 1st is the only place where you can find out if you qualify for a premium subsidy -- and if you do, it will only apply to the "metal" plans -- bronze, silver, platinum and gold (and catastrophic) -- on the exchange.
Subsidies will be available to people with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $46,000 for an individual. In addition, if you're low income you can also learn if you or your family members are eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program through the marketplace.
Another reason to check out the exchange: You can compare all the plans available in one place. And if t turns out that you can't find a plan that costs less that 8 percent of your income, the exchange is where you can apply for an exemption from the individual mandate.
Kaiser health news explains.