A subsidy is financial assistance from government programs that assist people in the lower to middle income brackets with their individual health insurance costs. A subsidy is not a loan, it does not need to be paid back if your income is below the earning threshold.
To qualify for a subsidy, you must meet requirements for household size and household income. Based on the requirements, you may qualify for premium tax credits, lower out-of-pocket costs, or low-cost health care through Medicaid. If you qualify for lower out of pocket costs your quotes will reflect this. Only silver plans currently qualify for this benefit.
If you qualify for premium tax credits to help you afford the monthly health insurance premium you will be notified as part of the application process. You can use these tax credits right away, and you can apply any amount on up to the complete amount of the credits to your premium each month. Important points to remember: