Guide to Low-Cost and Free Health Insurance Options

Individual and Family

Guide to Low-Cost and Free Health Insurance Options

Published on February 12, 2019


Most of you know that the increasing cost of medical coverage has presented a big obstacle for many families and individuals. However, you should not assume that you cannot afford a health plan; instead, you should explore many low-cost and free health insurance options that are available to many people.

What to know about free and low-cost health insurance alternatives

Before you explore free and low-cost health insurance options, you should understand that robust benefits will always cost money. When you find a health plan that appears much more affordable than other alternatives, you should compare it with other health insurance to determine why the insurer can offer this low-cost or even free health insurance for less than competing plans.
For instance:

  • Subsidized premiums: Plans from work or the Obamacare Marketplace may appear to be low-cost health insurance because the government or an employer pays a large part of the premiums. It’s important to understand the difference between the true cost of low-cost and free health insurance alternatives even if you don’t have to pay the entire premium yourself.
  • Fewer benefits: Some low-cost health insurance alternatives, like temporary health insurance, won’t usually include as many guarantees and benefits as true major medical policies, like the ones on the Obamacare Marketplace or group coverage at work. At the same time, you might choose a low-cost health insurance plan with benefits you urgently need and a price you can afford.

Low-Cost and free health insurance options

Explore these low-cost and free health insurance alternatives:

1. Medicaid

According to the government, Medicaid covers almost 70 million Americans. Since the federal government cooperates with each state to offer very low-cost or free health insurance to people with low incomes and few assets, qualification rules will depend upon where you live.
These are some quick facts about this type of low-cost or free health insurance:

  • In states that expanded Medicaid, households that earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level may qualify. For instance, this would equal about $16,753 for one person and about $34,638 for a family with four people.
  • In other states, applicants may have to be elderly, children, or disabled to qualify for Medicaid.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program, usually called CHIP, typically accepts children or pregnant women with a household income that doesn’t exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

2. Short-term health plans

Families and individuals who need to fill in coverage gaps with low-cost health insurance may benefit from short-term health insurance plans. Just this year, the government relaxed rules about short-term health insurance to allow initial enrollment for 12 months and renewals for three years.
Americans also don’t need to worry about tax penalties for failing to have ACA-compliant coverage; however, it’s important to understand that short-term policies won’t typically cover maternity, mental health, or any number of pre-existing conditions that Obamacare policies must include benefits for. Short-term policies will almost always cost less than true major medical, but because of the limitations, you might consider it to fill in gaps between job-related or Obamacare insurance and not as a permanent solution.

3. Obamacare subsidies

Just about 12 million Americans enrolled in Obamacare medical plans. While you may not consider the base premiums for many of these plans a low-cost health insurance option, you should know that about 83 percent of all enrollees qualified for a subsidy that reduced the actual premium they needed to pay, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Typically, American citizens and legal residents can qualify for a subsidy if they earn between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level and don’t have access to other affordable coverage.  As a government partner, eHealth lets you compare, apply for, and buy Obamacare policies–and you don’t even have to leave our site in order to find out if you qualify for subsidies, or enroll in an Obamacare plan.

4. Employer group health plans

Over half of all American employers offer group health plans to at least some employees, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average employer pays for about three-quarters of the premium, though some may pay as little as half.
Small business owners may also find that they can benefit from offering low-cost health insurance to their employees in several ways:

  • The employer and the employer’s family can also enroll in group coverage.
  • Businesses can take advantage of tax deductions and incentives for offering group health plans.
  • Employers may find that high-quality employees prefer to work for companies that offer group health insurance.

If you’re a small business owner, you can also compare small business health insurance at eHealth.

5. Coverage from other family members

Obviously, many people rely upon their spouse’s low-cost health insurance. In addition, even adult children can remain on a parent’s plan until they turn 26. If you’ve lost your low-cost health insurance, you might need to wait until the Obamacare Open Enrollment Period if you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Some life events that trigger a Special Enrollment Period include death, birth, marriage, and job loss.

How to Find Low-Cost and Free Health Insurance Options

Typically, you can use the same application that you use for Obamacare to find out if you or any family member qualifies for free health insurance from such government programs as Medicaid and CHIP. You can start your search for low-cost health insurance alternatives online at eHealth. This includes Obamacare, short-term health insurance, small business group plans, and other options.

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