How to Find Low-Cost Health Insurance
Finding Affordable Coverage With No Job or Little Money
Americans had historically high rates of being uninsured for decades, then "Obamacare," the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance reform, improved access and affordability of health insurance for many Americans.
There's a good chance that there's an option out there for you, even if you have little money or you've lost your job. Some plans also offer advantages if you're in a network. You won't have to fill in health insurance claims forms and you'll get lower rates. All these things impact how much money you're responsible for paying when receiving health care. The premium should not be your only consideration.
Make sure you understand the terms of your health insurance so you don't end up spending more money money than you have to due to higher out-of-pocket costs, lifetime maximums, or through coinsurance and deductibles.
Look For Coverage Through Your Spouse or Domestic Partner
If you have a partner or spouse, find out about their health insurance coverage first. Many insurers and plan sponsors have changed their rules for domestic partner health insurance and you might be eligible. You could be added to the policy very easily.
You might also want to check to see if you qualify to be added to your parents' policy or a student insurance plan.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
You might be eligible to continue your health insurance through COBRA if you've been laid off or are no longer working, but you were previously insured on a group health insurance plan with your former employer. Some young adults are also able to continue on their parent's health insurance, thanks to COBRA.
This option is particularly appealing when you're undergoing medical treatment and you need to find coverage quickly that will allow you to continue the treatments. But these plans aren't always the most affordable, so check the Health Insurance Marketplace before you settle on a plan. You might be able to afford another option.
Your state's workers' compensation program might be able to offer you some health care solutions if you're being treated for an injury that occurred while you were working. This is definitely something you should look into if this is your situation.
A lot changed with the Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid requirements. The number of people qualified to receive Medicaid has increased dramatically, yet statistics show that many people aren't taking advantage of the changes. There are many exceptions that allow people with incomes above the poverty line to qualify.
Medicaid expansion is different in each state, so contact your state insurance commissioner to find out if your state participates and what's available.
Medicare is administered by the Social Security Administration. You can qualify for Medicare if receive Social Security disability benefits or you're age 65 or older.
Health Insurance Marketplace for Pre-Existing Conditions
Marketplace plans cover treatment for pre-existing medical conditions, according to HealthCare.gov. No insurance plan can reject you, charge you more, or refuse to pay for essential health benefits for these conditions.
High Deductible Health Plans
A high deductible "emergency" policy is another way to maintain a low-cost health insurance plan. Maintaining a Health Savings Account (HSA) for smaller health issues will probably save you money in the long run.
Short-Term Health Insurance Coverage
Short-term health insurance coverage is available to individuals and their families, and it's a good choice if you need coverage quickly to avoid health insurance coverage gaps while you search for another option.
Group Insurance from Organization Memberships
Many organizations provide health insurance group plans. If you belong to any kind of membership organization, it's worth asking if they have a health insurance plan. Some common groups include alumni associations or professional organizations.
These groups help provide reduced health insurance premiums for their members. Some business bureaus or independent worker associations also offer these kinds of plans, so it's worth looking into this as an alternative to employer-sponsored group health insurance.
Group Health Expenses Sharing Plan
A health expenses sharing plan involves a group of people pooling their money together to pay each other's health care costs. They operate a bit like their own insurance company. Members' pooled contributions are invested and are usually reserved for pay major medical expenses. These plans aren't typically used for basic day-to-day health costs like checkups or small procedures.
Group health expense sharing plans aren't insurance plans, so they're not regulated in the same way as insurance. Look into the history of any of these plans before you join one.
Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs)
A health care sharing ministry (HCSM) operates on the same premise. A group of people who share similar beliefs create a health expenses sharing plan. An HCSM is a non-profit entity, so again, it's not health insurance and it's not regulated in the same way. Rather, it provides an alternative to insurance.
These plans include provisions that accommodate the beliefs of the group. Procedures that are morally objectionable would not be covered. Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries are two examples.
Health Insurance Discount Cards
Health insurance discount cards provide low-cost health services in exchange for a membership fee. These cards provide discounts on medical services, but it's not insurance. They don't offer any medical reimbursement. They can only lower your costs when you use the services of members participating in the plan.
The Health Care Marketplace Should Be Your First Stop
Obamacare and the Health Insurance Marketplace opened up a lot of new programs and increased eligibility for many health insurance plans. Give the Health Insurance Marketplace a try before you decide on any of these alternative options.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Young Adults and the Affordable Care Act: Protecting Young Adults and Eliminating Burdens on Businesses and Families.” Accessed Dec. 24, 2020.
Social Security. “Medicare,” Pages 3-4. Accessed Dec. 24, 2020.
HealthCare.gov. “Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions.” Accessed Dec. 24, 2020.