Question: If all of the plans on and off the exchange are the same - benefits and rates, then there’s no competitive advantage except in the networks. Am I right?
Answer: You’re partly right. If a carrier participates in Covered California, they must also offer the same plans or “mirror” those plans off-exchange. But, participating exchange carriers can also offer some alternative plans. For example, Anthem will offer 8 Bronze plans and 4 Silver plans off-exchange that do not mirror the exchange plans. Of course, they still have to be ACA-compliant and conform to the actuarial values for each level. Blue Shield, on the other hand, will be offering no alternative plans off exchange, only mirrored plans. Cigna, who does not participate in Covered California, will be offering only alternative plans off-exchange. So, the 2014 marketplace is not quite a plain vanilla as we first thought.