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Guide To Finding Cheap Health Insurance in 2020

First Quote Health put together a list of the cheapest medical insurance options available to you in 2020. If you're looking to save money on your healthcare, we have a plan for you.

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Health care isn’t cheap. But there are ways to make health insurance cheaper, or to get access to cheap health insurance by taking advantage of state and federal subsidized health insurance programs for low- and moderate-income families.

Keep in mind, though, that the cheapest health insurance isn’t always the plan with the lowest monthly premiums. In many cases, paying a higher premium means cheaper health insurance and health care costs in the long run – especially if you have preexisting conditions or ongoing health care costs.

Look at the entire package, and compare that with what health care expenditures you and your family make in a typical year. Then go with the plan that provides you with the lowest total out-of-pocket costs (that still provides the choices you need).

Cheap Health Insurance for Families and Low-income Individuals

Depending on your state, there are several different moderate-income and low-income health insurance options available. Many programs limit enrollment based on your income relative to federal poverty guidelines. Depending on your family size, income, and assets you own under your name, you may qualify for one or more of these relatively affordable health insurance solutions:

Medicaid

Medicaid is the federally-subsidized, state health insurance program for the poor and indigent. If you need cheap medical insurance, this is the cheapest around. But it’s very difficult to qualify for it, as you need to meet strict income limitations or meet specific disability criteria to qualify.

Specifics vary from state to state.

Most states have elected to expand Medicaid eligibility, however, as part of the Affordable Care Act. Residents of these states may find it easier to qualify for Medicaid assistance. For example, in states that have elected to expand Medicaid, you can qualify based on income alone.

In these states, you can generally qualify if your income falls below 138% of the federal poverty level for a given family size. See below:

StatesExpanded Medicaid Coverage
AlabamaNot Adopted
AlaskaAdopted
ArizonaAdopted
ArkansasAdopted
CaliforniaAdopted
ColoradoAdopted
ConnecticutAdopted
DelawareAdopted
District of ColumbiaAdopted
FloridaNot Adopted
GeorgiaNot Adopted
HawaiiAdopted
IdahoAdopted
IllinoisAdopted
IndianaAdopted
IowaAdopted
KansasNot Adopted
KentuckyAdopted
LouisianaAdopted
MaineAdopted
MarylandAdopted
MassachusettsAdopted
MichiganAdopted
MinnesotaAdopted
MississippiNot Adopted
MissouriNot Adopted
MontanaAdopted
NebraskaAdopted
NevadaAdopted
New HampshireAdopted
New JerseyAdopted
New MexicoAdopted
New YorkAdopted
North CarolinaNot Adopted
North DakotaAdopted
OhioAdopted
OklahomaNot Adopted
OregonAdopted
PennsylvaniaAdopted
Rhode IslandAdopted
South CarolinaNot Adopted
South DakotaNot Adopted
TennesseeNot Adopted
TexasNot Adopted
UtahAdopted
VermontAdopted
VirginiaAdopted
WashingtonAdopted
West VirginiaAdopted
WisconsinNot Adopted
WyomingNot Adopted

Show All Rows

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If your state isn’t among those that have expanded Medicaid, your income is below the federal poverty level, and you don’t qualify for Medicaid under your state health department’s current rules, you won’t qualify for either health insurance savings program: Medicaid coverage or savings on a private health plan bought through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace.

A Subsidized ACA Exchange Plan

If you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, you may still qualify to get relatively affordable medical insurance plans via your state’s Affordable Care Act exchange. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 15 million American families are eligible for subsidized health insurance plans.

You may qualify for a federal subsidy of your health coverage premiums if your income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line. 

There are four tiers available through the online health insurance marketplace, which provide varying levels of protection. All of them cover all ten essential health care benefits as defined by the ACA – subject to varying deductibles and copays.

Is your income below 400% of the federal poverty guideline? If so, you may qualify for a subsidy. (That means affordable health insurance premiums.)

PERSONS IN FAMILYPOVERTY GUIDELINE138% OF GUIDELINE
1$12,760$17,608.80
2$12,760$17,608.80
3$21,720$29,973.60
4$26,200$36,156.00
5$30,680$42,338.40
6$35,160$48,520.80
7$39,640$54,703.20
8*$44,120$60,885.60

For residents of HI and AK these values differ slightly, refer to these tables for more information.

There are four tiers available through the online health insurance marketplace, which provide varying levels of protection. All of them cover all ten essential health care benefits as defined by the ACA – subject to varying deductibles and copays.

While individual plans may vary, all four tiers are subject to the same maximum annual out-of-pocket health care costs under the Affordable Care Act. As of 2020, the maximum out-of-pocket-costs you will be responsible can’t exceed $8,150 for an individual and $16,300 for a family.

Bronze Plans

These plans offer: High out-of-pocket expense, lower premiums.

These plans have the lowest premiums of all the ACA-qualified plans. But they also provide the least protection against related costs. Once you meet your annual deductible, bronze plans will cover 60 percent of your covered medical expenses. You will be responsible for 40 percent of them – up to the maximum out-of-pocket caps mentioned above.

Bronze plans don’t qualify for ACA cost-sharing subsidies for low income or moderate income customers. (You can, however, apply for a premium tax credit (also called a premium subsidy if your income is less than 250% of the federal poverty line).

A bronze plan may make sense if: 

  • You don’t qualify for an ACA subsidy;
  • You don’t have significant ongoing medical expenses (for preexisting conditions, etc.);
  • You can afford the 40% copay (up to the out-of-pocket cap for the year);
  • You want to minimize monthly premiums.

Bronze plans may not be a good fit if:

  • You qualify for an ACA subsidy;
  • You have preexisting health conditions or ongoing medical expenses;
  • Paying the maximum out-of-pocket costs this year would be a significant financial burden for your family.

Silver Plans

These plans offer: Modest premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums.

Silver plans cover an average of 70% of covered health care costs over your deductible. It still provides coverage, at a minimum, for all ten ACA-mandated essential health services.

Silver plans are the lowest-tier plans that qualify for a cost-sharing subsidy under the Affordable Care Act. They work out better for those with no preexisting conditions.

A silver plan may make sense if:

  • You qualify for the cost-sharing subsidy (your income is below 250% of the poverty level);
  • You cannot afford the premiums of a higher-tier plan;
  • You don’t have ongoing medical expenses or preexisting conditions in your family.

Gold Plans 

These plans offer: Affordable deductibles and moderate-to-low deductibles.

Gold plans cover an average of 80% of covered health care costs over your deductible, up to the annual out-of-pocket maximum. Premiums are typically higher than for a similar gold or bronze plan, but you receive more protection against unexpected health care expenditures, which can be quite an income shock.

Like bronze and silver plans, gold plans provide coverage for all ten federally-mandated essential health services, as well as preventative care services. You also get the benefit of the same annual out-of-pocket cap on health expenditures.

These plans qualify for the cost-sharing credit if your income is below 250% of the federal poverty level.

Platinum Plans

These plans offer: The most coverage with the highest premiums.

The platinum plan is the highest tier available via the ACA exchanges. You can expect these plans to have the highest premiums. But they also provide the most coverage: Platinum plans cover roughly 90% of health care services.

A platinum plan may be a good fit if you know your family will spend a lot on health care over the coming year. Your premium will be high – but most of your costs will be covered, and you won’t have major income shocks in any given month because of health care costs.

All health plans in all three tiers provide coverage for preventive care services. Some plans also cover other services at little or no cost, even before you meet your deductible. You should not have to skip needed basic preventive care services just because you have a lower-tier plan.

NOTE: If your children are eligible for CHIP, they aren’t eligible for premium subsidies. That means the subsidy amount you’ll see when you enroll is just for the adults in your household.

Cheap Health Insurance for Seniors

Medicare is a federal plan that subsidizes health insurance and prescription drug insurance for seniors – usually beginning at age 65. However, those who have been receiving SSDI for 24 months are automatically enrolled in Medicare even at earlier ages. You may also qualify for Medicare if you have been diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, blindness, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Medicare consists of four parts:

  • Part A. Hospital insurance. Part A pays for the cost of a stay in a hospital. Subject to a complicated series of deductibles, which can create significant income shocks in the event of a hospitalization.
  • Part B. This plan covers 80% of physicians’ fees, durable medical equipment, lab fees, and up to 3 pints of blood per year. As of 2020, the monthly premium for Part B coverage is $144.60. However, if you need cheap coverage, you may qualify for a discount on your premium.
  • Part C, Medicare Advantage. These are private managed care plans, available for a premium, that contract with Medicare to provide you with all the covered services under Parts A and B. They may also provide additional services and benefits.
  • Part D: Prescription drugs. Some Medicare Advantage plans include Part D coverage.

If you are low-income and over 65 or otherwise eligible for Medicare, contact your state officials to see if you are ‘dual-eligible.’ That is, eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid in your state.

How do I enroll in Medicare?

If you are eligible, you can enroll in Medicare Part A and B in the following ways:

Exception: If you worked at a railroad, enroll in Medicare by contacting the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) at 1-877-772-5772 (TTY users 1-312-751-4701).

Medicare Supplement Insurance

Basic Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Unless you get additional coverage, you could still be liable for some very high deductibles and coinsurance, even under Medicare.

Medical supplement insurance (sometimes called “Medigap”) provides additional coverage to protect you from high Part A deductibles, and high coinsurance costs under Part B for physician’s fees, durable medical equipment.

  • Medicare supplement insurance coverage is standardized for all Medicare supplement providers. But pricing can vary from carrier to carrier.
  • To buy a Medicare supplement policy, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.
  • These plans are guaranteed renewable. Once you enroll, the carrier cannot revoke your coverage just because you are sick.
  • Note: Since 2006, Medicare supplement plans are not allowed to cover prescription drugs. If you want a prescription drug plan, you should enroll in Medicare Part D, or in a Part C Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage.
  • You should not enroll in both a Part C Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare Supplement plan at the same time. Choose one or the other.

If you are age 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part A or B, and you’d like to buy a Medicare Supplement plan, click here.

Cheap health Insurance for Children

If you have children and you’re on a tight budget, but you don’t qualify for Medicaid, see if your child qualifies for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. CHIP is a federal-subsidized program that provides affordable, cheap health insurance for children up to age 19 whose families don’t qualify for Medicaid.

Cheap Health Insurance for Preexisting Conditions

If you have preexisting conditions, and don’t qualify for Medicaid, the most important thing you can do is enroll during either the ACA annual open enrollment period (November 1st through December 15th in most states) or, if you qualify, during a special open enrollment period, which you can get if you lose access to your existing health plan, you get married, widowed or divorced, or you move to a new state.

As long as you enroll during one of these open enrollment periods, the health insurance carrier cannot turn you down simply because you have preexisting conditions.

If you qualify for a special enrollment period, you must enroll in an ACA-qualified health care plan within 60 days of the qualifying event.

If you cannot afford regular health insurance because your income is below the qualifying amount in your state, and your assets are below the threshold, you may be able to qualify for Medicaid.

If your preexisting condition is end-stage renal failure, blindness, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), you may be eligible to apply for Medicare.

Cheap Health Insurance for the Unemployed

If you become unemployed and lose your access to your former company’s health care plan, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. This will allow you to enroll outside the normal ACA open enrollment plan, as long as you enroll within 60 days of leaving your job.

If you wait longer than 60 days, you will need to wait until the regular open enrollment period for the next year, which is November 1st to December 15th in most states.

COBRA

You may also be able to sign up for COBRA, which allows you to continue coverage via your employer’s health carrier. You will have to pay both your part of the premium and the amount your employer was paying previously. Most people are shocked at how much COBRA coverage really costs.

If you lose your health insurance because you are unemployed, it almost always pays to shop around before you enroll in COBRA.

Cheap Health Insurance for Students

If you’re a student in college, your school’s medical insurance plan will be your cheapest option. Student insurance plans are usually subsidized or discounted. Even though these plans are cheap, schools work closely with health insurance companies to provide comprehensive coverage, so you still have access to major medical benefits. Obviously, these plans are only available to students, so if you’re not in school, or your school doesn’t offer affordable healthcare plans, you should try finding something else.

Private Medical Insurance

The private sector health insurance providers offers many benefits, including the ability to pick and choose the coverage options that matter the most to you and your family. While the ACA and other government funded plans offer cost effective solutions, unless you select the highest tier of plans you’re going to miss out on many benefits that the private sector can offer you.

Before signing up for a publicly funded plan, consider taking a look a providers that offer private insurance plans. With FirstQuote Health you can get free medical coverage quotes from the nations top providers in under 5 minutes.

Get started today with FirstQuote Health.

Catastrophic Healthcare Plans

If you have some savings, but you need a cheap health insurance plan that only covers major health care events, you can consider a catastrophic health plan. These are special plans that provide protection only against major medical events and ‘worst-case scenarios.’ That is, these plans will kick in to help you with large bills for things like heart attacks, strokes, cancers, etc.

These are certainly cheap health insurance plans. But coverage is limited as well.

These plans are most suitable for people who are relatively young and in good health. They may not be cost-effective for older people or people who have preexisting conditions.

Short-Term Health Insurance Plans

Another option for those who need cheap health insurance is a short-term health insurance plan. These plans provide a reduced-level of medical coverage for a limited period of time.

Short-term plans are not qualified plans under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. While ACA-qualified plans must provide coverage for ten essential services, short-term plans have no such requirements. However, most will provide basic coverage for emergency care, urgent care centers, preventative care, and a limited number of doctor visits per year.

Some plans provide prescription drug coverage; others do not. Be sure to check the policy language to see if prescription drugs are covered. Also check to see if any medications you usually take are on the plan’s formulary, or list of covered drugs.

What do short-term health insurance plans typically exclude? 

Plans vary significantly by state and by carrier. But many short-term insurance plans (not all) exclude one or more of the following:

  • Maternity coverage
  • Mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Vision care
  • Dental care
  • Prescription drugs

The more limited coverage helps keep premiums affordable. But consumers should be very aware of what any specific short-term policy does not cover. Review the policy’s list of exclusions and limitations carefully before you buy.

How to qualify For Short Term Insurance

Unlike ACA-qualified plans, Short-term health plans are medically underwritten. That means approval is not guaranteed. Short-term health plans routinely exclude people with significant preexisting conditions.

When you purchase a short-term health insurance plan, you may need to fill out a health questionnaire, authorize the plan to review your medical records, authorize your physicians to release medical records, or even submit to a medical exam yourself.

Traditional ACA-qualified plans, including all the bronze-through-platinum plans sold on the online exchanges - are prohibited from discriminating against people with preexisting health conditions, as long as they enroll during the annual open enrollment period. The general open enrollment period runs from November 1st through December 15th. However, if you lose access to your plan, move out of state or go through a life-changing event such as adoption, marriage, or divorce, you may qualify for a special enrollment period.

Duration and renewability provisions of short-term health insurance plans

Previously, these plans were limited to 90 days duration, and non-renewable. Customers were not allowed to extend these plans beyond three months. But federal guidelines changed in 2018 to allow health insurance companies to write policies for up to 12 months, and to renew or extend them for up to 36 months.

Who should consider a short-term health insurance plan?

Short-term health insurance plans may be a good fit for people in the following circumstances:

  • You missed the open enrollment period for an ACA-qualified plan and therefore can’t get in until the next open enrollment period comes around, or you can qualify for a special enrollment period.
  • You are between jobs and can’t afford a high COBRA premium.
  • You graduated college or quit school and are no longer covered by your college’s health insurance plan
  • You just turned 26 and no longer covered by your parents’ health insurance plan.
  • You are starting a business and cannot yet afford a traditional health insurance plan or a group plan for yourself, your partners, and your employees.

Eligibility

Each state runs its own program. Eligibility rules vary from state to state, but typically include a household income cap based on family size.

Unlike with Medicaid, you don’t have to be impoverished to qualify: Children in a family of four may be eligible for CHIP if household income is $49,200 or less

CHIP Coverage

Details vary by state, but all states provide basic, comprehensive coverage for enrolled children, including:

  • E.R. visits and emergency services
  • Immunizations and vaccinations
  • X-rays
  • Lab services
  • Dental care
  • Vision care
  • Prescriptions
  • Check-ups
  • Doctor visits

How to Save Money on Health Insurance

There are many ways you can reduce your out-of-pocket health care costs and save money on health insurance. Here are some of the most effective:

  • Comparison shopping: Private medical insurance companies can actually save you money. With the introduction of the ACA and other government funded health care programs private insurance providers have been forced to lower rates in order to stay competitive. Before signing up for any government subsidized program you should explore the private health insurance market. FirstQuote Health lets you compare medical insurance quotes from providers in your area in under 5 minutes!
  • Get a good workplace plan. Workplace group plans tend to have lower deductibles. And employers pay at least half of the premium.
  • Choose a higher deductible. All else being equal, the higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premiums will be. However, don’t choose a plan with a deductible that is so high you will wind up delaying care that you genuinely need.
  • Use an HSA/HDHP plan. The abbreviation stands for “health savings account/high deductible health plan.” These plans combine the savings of higher deductibles with a tax-advantaged savings account you can use to pay for qualified health expenses, tax-free.
  • Contributions to health savings plans are tax-deductible. Assets in the plan grow tax-deferred until you withdraw them. And there’s no tax on withdrawals as long as you spend them on qualified health expenses. Any assets left over in the HSA when you reach retirement age can be used to supplement your retirement income.
  • Choose an HMO or PPO. HMOs are health maintenance organizations, while PPOs are preferred provider organizations. Both are managed care organizations. These organizations attempt to control costs by limiting patient flow to doctors and providers who agree to provide services at a steep discount. The narrower the plan’s network, the bigger the discount is likely to be.
  • The main difference between HMOs and PPOs is HMOs require a referral from your primary care provider (PCP) before they will pay for a specialist. PPOs allow you to go directly to a specialist without a PCP referral.
  • Use in-network providers. To keep out-of-pocket costs down, use health care facilities and doctors that are listed in your plan’s network. HMOs and PPOs provide less coverage if you go out of network for non-emergency care. Some policies do not cover out-of-network providers at all.
  • Ask for generic drugs. When a drug’s patent expires, any pharma manufacturer can make and distribute it. Generic drugs, when available, are much less expensive than ‘brand-name’ drugs, and are generally pharmacologically equivalent. Unless there’s a reason your doctor wants to use the brand name, ask your doctor or pharmacist if a generic drug is available.

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