AIMHIgh, I don't qualify for a subsidy and I did not use healthcare.gov, primarily because I saw no benefit in doing so. I did compare prices offered on healthcare.gov to the private, individual off market prices and found them pretty much the same in the state of Virginia. Every state could be different so it pays to do your research.
I analyzed the cost and benefits of each plan offered by Anthem in my state. I also looked at other insurers (Humana, Optima, etc.). I chose to stay with Anthem. I have been with them since college and they had never let me down ….yet!
It boiled down to (1) you either pay up front for some office visits and tier one drugs or (2) you pay if you need it. I chose the bronze plan as it "looked" to be cheaper for me than the Silver, Gold or Platinum, considering everything goes towards the high deductible including drug cost.
It took some mental gymnastics for me to get over the fact that if I have to go to the doctor, I will be paying more than a copay. I will be paying the allowable charge as long as I stay "in network". It is also different for me having to deal with a network as I have been able to go to any doctor I wanted…until now..unless going forward I choose a POS plan, But the cost of that was over double the premium of the bronze plan.
If it doesn't work out, I can always switch next year. In other words, it is not a decision carved in stone.
I chose a plan with an HSA. The tax savings helped a bit, sheltering that money from taxation, in affect reducing my cost a bit more.
That said, I am not on any medication and do not have a medical condition (yet!) Those are factors one should consider.
Can't answer your second question.