Did you know that out of the 27.5 million uninsured Americans, most say they’re uninsured because there are not enough affordable options? Although many are eligible for financial assistance, navigating through finding the right plan is time-consuming, overwhelming, and expensive.
These factors play into why so many Americans decide to go uninsured despite the fact that having health insurance is beneficial. With coverage, you’ll have lower out-of-pocket costs, which means you’re less likely to go bankrupt from medical expenses. People with insurance are also more prone to go to the doctor to receive preventive care, which helps increase longevity.
And yet, finding an affordable plan seems next to impossible. If you are one of the millions of Americans looking for inexpensive health insurance, then there are a few things to know as you begin your search.
When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was introduced in 2010, the intent was to help millions of uninsured Americans gain affordable health insurance with guaranteed coverage at fair prices. The act, also nicknamed Obamacare, helped insure nearly 20 million Americans within a few years, but many still opted out because they preferred low cost health insurance options.
Figure 1: Number of Uninsured and Uninsured Rate among the Nonelderly Population, 2008-2018
If you can’t afford Obamacare or don’t qualify for subsidies, there is still good news for you. There are plenty of affordable health insurance options — you just have to know what to look for. First, it’s best to become familiar with the types of plans, programs, and coverages that you might qualify for.
Before choosing the right health insurance, you have to consider your lifestyle, your income, and your cost of living. Measuring these things will help you determine where you stand on the federal poverty level. For example, if you can’t go through your employer, then social insurance might be a more affordable option. For those who are low-income and require more consistent medical care, welfare insurance is better.
Private insurance refers to insurance plans that are offered explicitly by private insurance companies, making them independent of government-sponsored programs. Currently, more than half of the population uses private insurance through their employer or purchase it directly from the insurer.
Social insurance is a government-sponsored program that is funded by the taxes or premiums paid by participants. Some popular programs are Social Security, Medicare, and state-sponsored unemployment insurance. It intends to serve as public insurance that provides people protection against economic risks that typically come with unexpected medical costs.
Welfare insurance is typically referred to as Medicaid, which is a government-sponsored system that helps cover citizens based on their medical and insurance needs. Medicaid usually covers low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. Services are designed to offer specific benefits like nursing home care.
The main difference between individual and family coverage is how you receive the insurance and who it is for. The cost for each will vary, and recent years have seen the cost for everyone go up:
This trend only magnifies the need to find affordable health insurance, and knowing what to shop for will help you make the best decision for your needs. Let’s briefly look at the difference between individual and family policies.
Individual health insurance is a health policy that you select for yourself and is not employer-sponsored. Most unmarried, divorced, or single adults who are not eligible for coverage from their employer will choose individual health insurance as their plan of choice.
Here are the costs to consider when purchasing an individual policy:
Family health insurance is a health policy that you purchase yourself, is not employer-sponsored and intends to cover you, your spouse, and eligible dependents. Family health plans are essentially individual policies with dependents added to the coverage.
As with any policy, there are a couple of costs to keep in mind:
There are two types of plans you could choose from: qualified plans and nonqualified plans. All major insurance providers meet the ACA regulations, which means they are eligible insurers. Typically these will have higher costs because of the amount of coverage and benefits you receive. On the other hand, nonqualified plans might include alternatives like short-term health insurance or indemnity health insurance.
A qualified health plan is covered by the Marketplace and provides affordable, widespread care that helps cover at least 60% of your out-of-pocket costs without being denied coverage based on your age, geographical location, or tobacco usage.
Qualified plans are best for those who:
Any ACA-compliant plan must meet at least ten essential health benefits, like preventive services, emergency services, pediatric care, and more.
Nonqualified plans are health insurance plans that are not ACA-compliant, meaning they are not covered by the marketplace and do not meet the ten essential health benefits. Although there is less coverage, nonqualified plans might be for you if you can’t afford Obamacare and are looking at alternative affordable health insurance options. Some popular choices are short-term health insurance and indemnity insurance plans, which are generally cheaper and only cover necessary things.
Nonqualified plans are best for those who:
If you only want a plan that helps you in the event of an unexpected illness or injury, then nonqualified options might be a better fit for you and your family.
If you don’t qualify for employer-sponsored coverage, then your options might seem a little out of reach — and buying your insurance from popular providers can get expensive and cause substantial financial debt. So if you are looking for a cheaper option that only covers the necessities like primary and emergency care, then it might be best to consider affordable options that work better for you.
If you’re not sure where to start, then begin by finding an insurer that offers both qualified and nonqualified plans. There, you can get quotes and customize your ideal plans on a budget you can afford.