Affordable health insurance used to seem like a pipe dream for many Americans, but the passage of the Affordable Care Act changed that. Households with incomes ranging from 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) became eligible for subsidies to bring health insurance premiums within reach as a result of President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform, which was signed into law in 2010. Furthermore, the Medicaid program for low-income people was expanded to include all adults earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
Even so, some Americans face difficulties in finding affordable health insurance premiums, particularly those at the higher end of the subsidy range and beyond. Because of how the ACA was conceived, health insurance premiums can vary greatly depending on where you live, how much money you make, and the size of your family.
6 Affordable health insurance
Regardless of where you fall on those scales, the best way to find affordable health insurance is to shop around among several different providers and compare plans based on what they offer, monthly premiums, annual out-of-pocket costs, and other factors. Investopedia compared some of the leading providers in this space to identify the best affordable health insurance companies available today.
1. Blue Cross BlueShield
Blue Cross BlueShield was ranked because of their healthcare options for individuals who work remotely and must purchase coverage on their own. This includes the ability to purchase coverage that is valid in all 50 states as well as global health insurance for short-term or long-term travel.
- Long company history and a solid reputation.
- Global coverage is provided.
- Doctors and specialists generally accept it.
– There are numerous negative user reviews on Consumer Affairs and Trustpilot.
Blue Cross BlueShield was founded in 1929 and has since grown to provide high-quality health insurance coverage throughout the United States. The company covers 76 of America’s Fortune 100 companies, 6.9 million people employed by small businesses, 17 million unionized workers, and millions more. 2
However, we ultimately chose Blue Cross BlueShield for our ranking because of its options for remote workers, such as health insurance that works across the country or even globally.
Blue Cross BlueShield allows you to purchase health insurance that is valid in all 50 states and is widely accepted by doctors and specialists nationwide. They also provide coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, which means that eligible customers can receive subsidies to reduce the cost of their health insurance premiums. You can even purchase global health insurance that covers both short-term and long-term travel—both of which are viable options if you can work from home or anywhere in the world.
UnitedHealthcare was chosen for our ranking because they provide short-term health insurance coverage when needed. If you’re in between employer-based plans or need temporary coverage for any reason, this type of plan can be useful.
- Long company history
- There is short-term health insurance available.
- Provides ACA-compliant plans
- In J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study, almost all regions received below-average ratings.
- Certain short-term plans are not available in all states.
UnitedHealthcare was founded in 1977, but it has since grown tremendously and now serves over 70 million customers. This provider also has direct relationships with over 1.3 million physicians and healthcare providers, as well as 6,500 hospitals and medical centers across the United States. We selected UnitedHealthcare for our ranking based on their short-term health insurance options, which help consumers bridge gaps between plans.
If you missed open enrollment for the ACA, are waiting for coverage to begin, or are between jobs, UnitedHealthcare’s short-term insurance may be a good option. You can be covered the day after you apply, and you can choose the length of your coverage as well as your deductible. If a long-term insurance option becomes available, you can also drop your short-term coverage with no penalty.
It’s worth noting that UnitedHealthcare’s short-term health insurance plans are underwritten by Golden Rule Insurance Company, which has an A rating from AM Best for financial strength.
3. Kaiser Permanente
We chose Kaiser Permanente because it manages its own Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which can help you save for health-care expenses tax-free.
- Kaiser provides its own HSA.
- Individuals and families can choose from ACA-compliant plans.
- J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study gave several top ratings.
- Only eight states and Washington, D.C. are covered.
Kaiser began offering public health insurance plans in 1945 and has since grown to become one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health insurance providers. Kaiser serves over 12.5 million members across eight states and Washington, D.C.
When you combine a Kaiser Permanente high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA), you receive a convenient debit card that allows you to cover eligible expenses with your HSA funds directly and without additional paperwork. Your HSA plan also has no hidden fees, and the $3.25 monthly plan fee is waived if you keep an HSA balance of $2,000 or more.
Kaiser may also offer ACA-compliant plans in your area, so you may be able to use subsidies to make your premiums more affordable.
Because of the plan features that you may be eligible for, we chose Cigna as the best coverage for employees. Benefits that stand out include free annual check-ups, a 24-hour health line, and a mobile app.
- There are no annual checkups.
- Contact a nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- There are numerous coverage options available.
- J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study gave several top ratings.
- Only 13 states offer ACA-compliant individual and family plans.
Cigna was established in 1792, making it one of the world’s oldest insurance companies. While Cigna’s coverage areas are limited across the country, we chose them for our ranking because of the unique benefits they provide to individuals and their employee plans.
Cigna customers receive benefits such as free annual checkups and a 24-hour health line where they can call in and have medical questions answered by a nurse. The myCigna app can also assist you in keeping track of your medical care, medical bills, and overall healthcare goals.
Employers who choose this option can choose from a variety of plans, including dental, vision, pharmacy, and health and wellness coverage. While employee plans are available, Cigna has expanded its ACA-compliant offerings to 13 states by 2022.
Oscar was chosen as the best for convenience because it has a mobile app and a plethora of ways to save time and money on healthcare via phone or video chat.
- Digital healthcare experience
- Consult a doctor for free.
- App for mobile devices
- Plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act are available in eligible coverage areas.
- The company has a shorter history than most competitors.
- There are fewer ratings and reviews to compare.
- Plans are only available in 19 states.
Oscar was founded in 2012, so this technologically driven healthcare company lacks the long history of some of its competitors. Nonetheless, they serve over 560,000 members in 497 counties across 19 states. They intend to expand to 22 states in the near future. This means that their coverage area remains limited, but if you live in one of their coverage areas, you may still find value in their policies.
Finally, we chose Oscar for our ranking based on their digital healthcare experience, which includes a mobile app and the ability to book healthcare appointments over the phone or via video.
Oscar’s mobile app makes it simple for customers to keep a digital ID card, book appointments, and find in-network providers. Prescription renewals and preventative care can be handled over the phone or via video chat. You can also book unlimited virtual visits with Oscar’s Virtual Urgent Care and Virtual Primary Care for $0.
Depending on your location, you may be able to purchase an ACA-compliant plan through Oscar that is made more affordable by healthcare subsidies. During open enrollment, you can visit healthcare.gov to see what coverage options are available in your area.
Humana was chosen because of its many Medicare Advantage plan options, which can make sense for Medicare members looking for additional coverage.
- Some plans provide benefits that are not required by Medicare Part A or Part B.
- A list of covered benefits is included in all Medicare Advantage plans.
- J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study gave some better-than-average and top ratings.
- Some plans are not available in all states.
- Humana no longer provides traditional individual health insurance.
Humana was founded in 1961 as a nursing home company, but it has since grown to become one of the largest health insurance providers in the United States. We chose them for our ranking based on their generous Medicare Advantage and Medigap coverage options.
Humana Medicare Advantage plans are available in a variety of formats, including HMO plans, PPO plans, PPFS plans, and SNP plans. While coverage options vary, basic benefits such as hospital stays and emergency transportation, telehealth visits, preventative care and specialist visits, medical supplies and equipment, and outpatient care and procedures are all available through Medicare Advantage. Lab work, X-rays, screening, and imaging are also covered.
Humana is also well-known for its Medicare Supplement plans, also known as Humana Medigap plans. These plans are distinct from Medicare Advantage plans and are available in the majority of states. Medigap plans, like Medicare Advantage, can help fill in the gaps that traditional Medicare coverage leaves.
How Can I Obtain Low-Cost Health Insurance?
Shopping around and comparing plans is one of the best ways to save money on health insurance. Check to see if you qualify for ACA subsidies, which can make your health insurance plan more affordable if you earn between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level based on your family size. In 2021, 100% of the FPL works out to $26,500 for a family of four, and 400% of the FPL works out to $106,000, so subsidies may be available to families with incomes in that range. 4
Can I Purchase Low-Cost Health Insurance at Any Time?
Although you can purchase short-term health insurance coverage at any time, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period, you can only purchase plans offered in conjunction with the ACA during open enrollment. Special enrollment periods can occur whenever you add a family member, relocate to a new coverage area, or experience another eligible life event.
Medigap coverage has its own open enrollment period, which begins the month you turn 65 and lasts six months if you are already enrolled in Medicare Part B. After this period, you may be unable to obtain Medigap coverage, or you may have to pay a higher premium.
How Do I Pick the Best Low-Cost Health Insurance Provider?
Begin by determining which of the best affordable health insurance companies offers plans in your area. Check to see if you are eligible for ACA plan subsidies, and then compare providers based on their networks, plan deductibles and copays, and included benefits. While you should look for a health insurance plan with a reasonable annual deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, you should also make sure that the monthly premiums are affordable.
Is Using a Private Health Insurance Company Worth It?
It is critical to save money on the rising costs of medical care. Obtaining private insurance accomplishes this. To make private insurance affordable, you must meet the ACA income guidelines.
How We Selected the Best Low-Cost Health Insurance Providers
Investopedia compared 10 of the top health insurance providers in the United States to determine the most affordable options for various needs. With J.D. Power, we looked for companies with strong financial ratings as well as those that rank well for customer service and other factors. We also gave preference to low-cost health insurance providers that offer ACA-compliant plans, because consumers can use subsidies to lower their monthly premium costs.