You have many options for finding health insurance that you can afford if you're not employed, if you're self-employed, or if you have low income. Some can offer you a better deal on your health costs than others. The key to finding low-cost health care is taking the time to shop around for a good plan.
Look into these 11 common places if you're not working, have low income, work reduced hours, or work part-time. Most low-cost options have eligibility rules, but reading through the list will let you know what's out there.
You can also contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program to explore whether you're eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.
The number of people who can receive Medicaid increased a great deal with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but some people aren't aware of this. Those who are living below the poverty line may qualify, including adults without children. Some plans allow for income above the poverty line.
These guidelines are revised each year, so it's a good idea to check once in a while to find out if you meet the revised rules. The exact terms of Medicaid expansion are left up to each state. Contact your state insurance commissioner to learn the specifics.
High-Deductible Health Plans
A high-deductible health plan is a smart way to maintain a low-cost health insurance plan. You can find ways to save money on your taxes while saving money on a long-term basis when you combine this type of plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA).
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
These plans are available if you've been laid off, or if you've had your work hours cut. You may be able to remain on your former employers' health plan through COBRA. College students may be able to remain on their parents' plans with this option.
You might be eligible for COBRA due to include voluntary or involuntary job loss, having your hours cut, if you're moving between jobs, or if there have been changes in your family such as death or divorce.
COBRA is an option for people who may have lost their jobs while they're still receiving treatment for medical problems.
COBRA may not be the cheapest health insurance option, but it can provide good coverage, depending on your needs.
Many people don't realize that they may be covered by their state's workers' compensation program. Your employer must offer you medical care under this program if you're being treated for any work-related injury.
Medicare is provided by the government. It's administered by the Social Security Administration. You could qualify if you're age 65 or older. You may also qualify if you're younger than 65 and you're getting Social Security disability benefits or have certain diseases.
The Health Insurance Marketplace
Marketplace plans cover treatment for pre-existing medical issues. None of these plans have been able to reject you for this reason since 2014. They can't charge you more, or refuse to pay for health benefits.
Individual and Family Health Insurance
You can get quotes from various health insurance companies and shop for a plan just as you would for home or car insurance. These plans work a lot like what an employer would offer, but you won't have that employer contribution to help reduce the cost.
Short-Term Health Insurance Coverage
A short-term health insurance plan is a policy that only provides coverage for a short time. People who want time to examine their insurance choices would still be minimally covered for a while if they elect this option.
But there are some problems with this type of plan. They often don't cover pre-existing medical problems. They don't meet ACA rules for minimum essential coverage, so short-term health plans don't let you receive a subsidy or tax credits as the ACA plans do.
These plans don't renew. You must apply all over again when the plan's term ends. They don't cover maternity care, and many don't cover drug treatments or prescription drugs, either.
Group Insurance From Organizations
This is often an overlooked source of low-cost health insurance. For example, those who are members of University Alumni Associations can obtain a few insurance choices. These organizations don't help pay premiums, but the plan rates can be lower because of the group discount.
Ask organizations that you're a member of if they offer a group health plan, or research those that do so and join. You might even ask your current organizations to offer a group health plan. They may not realize they could do this for their members.
Be sure to ask any organization you contact if the plan is ACA compliant.
Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSM)
A health expense sharing ministry isn't insurance, but it can be an option if you can find a reputable group. An HCSM involves a group of people who pool their money to pay for each other's healthcare needs.
This is something like self insuring, because the group functions like their own "insurance company." Contributions are pooled and are often invested so they earn interest.
A health care sharing ministry involves a group of people who share similar beliefs. It's a non-profit entity. These plans may have some limits that you wouldn't find in insurance plans. There may be rules against procedures that the group objects to on a moral basis. Some religious groups use this model successfully, such as Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries.
Health Insurance Discount Cards
Health insurance discount cards give members access to negotiated low-cost healthcare. They're not insurance plans, but rather an option you might want to explore as a last resort.
You'll pay a small monthly fee and get a discounted rate on your services when you go to a doctor or hospital. You'll still end up paying all your medical costs, but at least you'll pay less.