How to Get Health Insurance

Last modified on March 14th, 2024

How to Get Health Insurance

Historic gains in health insurance coverage have made it easier than ever for low-income individuals to access medical care. Despite these changes in America’s healthcare system, however, more than 27 million individuals remain uninsured.

Essential healthcare needs like childhood immunizations and routine check-ups are the first thing to go. Some individuals will also forego certain prescription medications priced over a particular amount. All of this delay and avoidance comes right down to one thing: a fear of being unable to pay ever-increasing medical bills.

Even under the Affordable Care Act, many individuals say that the high cost of insurance is the main reason they opt out of coverage.

The cost of not having health insurance can be a steep price to pay though, with one’s own well-being on the line. The balancing act of prioritizing health and managing your personal finances should never become an opportunity cost. Instead, focus on how to choose health insurance.

Choosing the right plan that is both tailored to your needs, and that suits your budget, is a smarter and more effective long-term solution. In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to help you acquire a health insurance plan.

What Is Health Insurance in the United States?

In the United States, health insurance coverage enables residents and citizens to access medical facilities and primary healthcare providers. Those eligible for coverage in the United States purchase health insurance and are usually restricted to a network of physcians and hospitals to choose from.

The Affordable Care Act significantly reformed health care legislation and improved healthcare access to low income households, and those with pre-existing conditions. As a result, there are now more benefits considered standard in insurance policies. Add to this the fact that roughly half of uninsured individuals are eligible for health care under existing programs, and you have an opportunity to capture and provide more comprehensive healthcare for all.

How Do I Get Health Insurance?

To get started with finding and buying health insurance, you’ll need to consider which source of coverage is either already available for you or which suits your situation.

There are several sources of coverage you can turn to, including:

Your employer

If your position qualifies for health insurance and your employer offers it, you won’t need to use government insurance exchanges or marketplaces. Your company will enroll you in their healthcare coverage plan. Keep in mind that you may still need to pay part of the premiums, but so does your employer. This lowers total premiums, on average.

Your state’s public marketplace

If you’re an independent contractor or you work at a job that doesn’t provide healthcare coverage, you can use your state’s marketplace to choose and enroll in a state or federal health insurance plan. These marketplaces have an open enrollment period that eventually close down, so you have to select your plan during specific times of the year to ensure coverage. You can get started by heading online and applying at

Private exchange or insurer

An alternative route that may be attractive is to forgo your state’s marketplace and go directly to an external health insurance provider for individual health insurance plans. The pricing and benefits for Qualified Health Plans are the same whether you purchase from or a private marketplace. The advantage of using a private exchange like AHiX Marketplace is that you can shop the same qualified plans at, but also have access to the many non-qualified policies and supplemental coverages not offered on the government exchange.

Government programs

These are special programs that you must qualify for, including MedicareMedicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). To apply for these programs, however, you must qualify under age or health condition requirements. If you do qualify, the application is easy and available online.

Keep in mind that there are also special circumstances that may qualify you for particular kinds of healthcare coverage. If you’re military personnel, for example, you would qualify for coverage under the Veterans Administration or TRICARE. If you experience voluntary or involuntary job loss or a reduction in work hours, you may qualify for continuing coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

Types of Health Insurance Plans

When it comes to buying health insurance, you have several sources open to you. Before you learn how to buy health insurance, however, you should compare the various types of health insurance plans open to you.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO):

One of the most popular options when buying health insurance are HMO plans. The plans that fall under this category offer low co-payments and cover the costs of preventative care. However, you must choose from healthcare providers approved to be part of the plan.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO):

As the name suggests, PPO health plans give you flexibility in choosing your own provider, and they offer lower co-payments.

Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO):

These plans allow you less freedom to choose providers, but the out-of-pocket costs remain low. With EPOs, you have to stay in-network to receive coverage.

Point of Service Plan (POS):

Referrals are required if you’re going with a Point of Service plan. There are more provider options, but it’s your primary care doctor who will coordinate your care and choose your specialists.

To correctly assess which type of healthcare works best for you, consider several different factors and go beyond a mere cost comparison. Try to consider what the plans cover, prescription coverage, whether you want to handle the paperwork behind referrals personally, and even where you live.

What Should Health Care Plans Cover?

Under the Affordable Care Act, benefits that once varied vastly from plan to plan are much more standard.

Services that weren’t historically offered by all plans must now provide multiple “essential health benefits,” which include:

  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Laboratory tests
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health
  • Outpatient care
  • Pediatric services that include dental and vision care
  • Preventative services like immunizations
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehab services

With the variety of health insurance sources and plan categories, the best way to make the right decision is to look at the fine print of the plan. Coverage for specialists, medications, home care or nursing care, bill or service disputes, and even the right (or not) to go to any provider you choose are crucial in your decision. You must, of course, also compare factors such as out-of-pocket costs.

How to Add Family Members

Marketplace plans have open enrollment periods. For example, the application for 2020 opened on November 1st, 2019, and ends on December 15th, 2019. However, you may qualify to enroll after this date if you’ve experienced recent changes in your life.
How to Add Family Members

You qualify for this Special Enrolment Period (SEP) if you suddenly lose health coverage (which may entitle you to a provision like COBRA), if you move states, get married, have a baby, or adopt a child. If you have to apply during the SEP timeframe, keep in mind that you have 60 days from the change event to apply.

If you need to add family members to your health insurance such as spouse and children, begin by preview prices and plans based on your income. After this, it’s a simple matter of contacting the Marketplace Call Center to enroll or creating an account to apply online.

How to get health insurance immediately?

To obtain health insurance immediately, explore options such as COBRA coverage, short-term health insurance plans, health insurance marketplaces, or government-sponsored programs like Medicaid and CHIP. Evaluate your specific needs, budget constraints, and urgency for coverage, then take proactive steps to apply for the most suitable option. Gather necessary documentation, submit applications online or in-person, and follow up on the application status to ensure timely access to essential healthcare coverage.

How Much Does Health Insurance Cost?

The cost of health insurance can vary widely depending on factors such as your age, location, coverage options, and the insurance provider. On average, individual health insurance premiums can range from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars per month. Employers often subsidize a portion of employee premiums for group health insurance plans, reducing costs for employees. Additionally, government-sponsored programs like Medicaid and CHIP provide low-cost or free coverage to eligible individuals and families with limited income. To determine the cost of health insurance for your specific situation, it’s advisable to compare quotes from multiple insurers and carefully review plan details to find the best coverage at an affordable price.


The application process may be multi-step and lengthy, but it’s rarely confusing. Under the ACA, state and federal marketplace plans and insurers cannot deny you coverage based on your specific medical conditions or health history. However, the complications arise when you’re doing the research. When you shop for health insurance online, the trickiest aspect will be finding the right plan for you.

To help streamline the process, you can begin by considering all your options in a stepwise manner. Begin with the source – where will this insurance come from? Next, ask yourself about the type of plan. Finally, list out the specific coverages, beyond the essential benefits of the ACA mandate, you’d like to have.

This is a much more sane approach to previewing plans because you already know what you’re looking for, instead of being confronted with multiple options right away. Gaining clarity on your medical must-haves is really the first step when learning how to get health insurance.

How to Get Health Insurance FAQs

1. Where can I buy health insurance on my own?

You can buy health insurance on your own through various channels. One option is to purchase a plan directly from insurance companies, either online or through their local offices. Additionally, you can explore health insurance marketplaces, such as the federal Marketplace or state-specific exchanges, where you can compare and purchase plans from different insurers. Another avenue is to work with licensed insurance agents or brokers who can help you navigate the options available and assist you in finding a plan that meets your needs and budget.

2. How do I get health insurance if I am retired?

If you are retired, you have several options for obtaining health insurance coverage. One option is to enroll in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities. You can also explore Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies to enhance your coverage. If you retire before age 65 and are not yet eligible for Medicare, you may be able to continue your employer-sponsored coverage through COBRA or retiree health benefits, purchase individual health insurance plans, or explore government-sponsored programs like Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

3. How do I get health insurance if I have a disability?

If you have a disability, there are several options available for obtaining health insurance coverage. One option is to enroll in Medicare if you are eligible based on your disability status. You may also qualify for Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that provides health coverage to low-income individuals and families, including those with disabilities. Additionally, you can explore health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, where you may be eligible for subsidies or tax credits to help make coverage more affordable.

4. How do I get health insurance if I am self-employed?

If you are self-employed, you have several options for obtaining health insurance coverage. One option is to purchase an individual health insurance plan directly from insurance companies or through health insurance marketplaces. You can also explore government-sponsored programs like Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act marketplace, where you may be eligible for subsidies or tax credits to help offset the cost of coverage. Additionally, you can consider joining a professional or trade association that offers group health insurance plans for self-employed individuals. Working with licensed insurance agents or brokers can also help you navigate the options available and find a plan that meets your needs.

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Joe Barnes

AvatarJoe Barnes, a nationally licensed insurance producer with years of experience, has assisted thousands in finding their ideal health insurance plan. Continuing his mission, Joe has embraced a writing editor role at AHiX. With his extensive knowledge of the insurance industry and deep understanding of our customer's needs, Joe guides our writing team, simplifying the process for readers to identify the best plan for their needs.

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