The Most Affordable Health Plans in the U.S.

Fran Majidi
November 20, 2020

With so many Americans not getting the coverage they need, finding an affordable health plan can be challenging. According to the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey 2020, 43.4 percent of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 were inadequately insured in the first half of 2020. And the adult uninsured rate was 12.5 percent. In addition, 9.5 percent of adults were insured but had gaps in coverage in the past year and 21.3 percent were underinsured. The share of privately insured adults with deductibles of $1,000 or more has doubled since 2010. So more people are choosing high deductible plans for health insurance. Choosing a higher deductible plan will help to lower your health insurance premium. So this is a smart financial move. As is keeping a small emergency fund to pay for medical expenses until you reach that deductible.

Over the past three years, 71 percent of adults age 19 to 64 did not buy health insurance on their own because it was too expensive. Even with insurance, medical costs vary in different parts of the country. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of a lower back MRI in Las Vegas, Nevada costs $404 on average and in the Houston, Texas area the average price is $1,106. Some medical costs are out of your control but the plan you choose aren’t. Let’s look at ways to find an affordable health plan near you.

Find Affordable Health Insurance

Kaiser and Blue Cross Blue Shield Win

If you do not qualify for a subsidized health plan such as Medicaid, Kaiser and Blue Cross Blue Shield are two of the most affordable and best-rated insurance companies. However, they are not available in all states. Kaiser Foundation Health Plans are the only ones to win five-star ratings on the federal exchange. In California, Kaiser Permanente earned five stars on a plan in the state exchange there. And in Massachusetts and Vermont, Blue Cross Blue Shield had plans with five stars on the state exchanges. So put Kaiser and Blue Cross Blue Shield at the top of your shopping list for a new private health plan.

Other Insurance Companies with Cheap Plans

Need some more choices? Several insurance plans came in with four-star ratings. These include

  • USAble Mutual Insurance Company in Arizona
  • Health First, Inc. in Florida
  • Vantage Health Plan in Louisiana
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Maine
  • Physician Health Plan in Michigan
  • Cigna in North Carolina
  • Sanford Health Plan in North Dakota
  • Providence Health Plan in Oregon
  • Geisinger Health Plan in Pennsylvania
  • Avera Health Plans, Inc. in South Dakota
  • Optima Health in Virginia
  • Dean Health Plan in Wisconsin.

How Much Does Health Insurance Cost?

In 2020, the average health insurance premium for single coverage is $448 per month. For family coverage the average premium is $1041 per month. How does your health care cost compare? Are you paying more or less than the national average? Health plan costs vary so if you don’t like your plan costs be sure to shop for a new one.

Factors Impacting Health Plan Costs

The health coverage you choose, your age, your location and the number of family members included in your coverage, all these factors influence health plan costs. But there are ways to keep costs down.

Save at Your Local Health Center

Health centers are a low-cost option and they offer a range of services including checkups, immunizations and mental health treatments.

Buy an HMO

You may not have as much freedom with an HMO but you’re likely to pay less with these plans.

Insure Your Children

See if your children qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in your state. If not, you can buy your baby a new private health insurance plan any time outside the open enrollment period in the baby's first year.

Do You Qualify for COBRA?

Sticking with the insurance from an old employer is one way to insure your family gets the insurance coverage they need. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers who lose their healthcare benefits the right to continue group health benefits for a limited time.

When your COBRA period ends, you’ll need to choose a new health plan, either on your own or through an employer. The good news is you’ll meet eligibility requirements to enroll outside the open enrollment period when COBRA ends.

Health Care Costs

Can’t afford a doctor’s appointment? You’re not alone. Residents of southern states were considerably more likely to report skipping a doctor’s appointment in the past 12 months due to cost. Twenty percent of residents in Texas, 18 percent of residents in Mississippi, 17 percent of residents in Louisiana and 17 percent of residents in Georgia skipped doctor’s appointments in the past year because they couldn’t afford them.

The cost of doctor appointments is one of the first things you’ll want to consider when shopping for a new health plan. You want a health plan that fits your budget. So, find out how much your co-payment is because that is what you’d pay at the visit. Do you need to see a specialist for any reason? Are copays more expensive for a specialist? Find out. Also, what are your prescription costs and how much of it is covered in the plans you’re considering? How much are routine services such as x-rays and other tests? Write down a list of your medical needs and see what’s covered with each health plan and how much is covered.

One way to lower the price of a health insurance premium is to choose a plan with a higher deductible. A deductible is the amount you need to pay before an insurance company begins paying for services. Choosing a higher-deductible plan will lower your insurance premium and lower your monthly payment amount.

In 2020, the average deductible for single individual coverage is $4,364. And the average deductible for family coverage is $8,439.

The maximum out-of-pocket limit is an important dollar amount to know. This dollar amount is the most you have to spend on covered health services in a year. After you reach this amount, the insurance company pays 100% for covered services for the rest of the benefit year. So be sure to check the maximum out-of-pockets limit when comparing health plans.

Comparing Health Plans

Once you know what you are looking for in a health plan and have an idea of the coverage that you want, you’re ready to shop for a new health plan. The biggest way to save money on health insurance is through comparison shopping. You’ll want to compare several health plans in your area before settling on a cost-effective plan with good coverage. With SmartFinancial, you can compare several health plans with ease. SmartFinancial has access to more than 200 insurance companies so you are bound to find the health coverage you need at a price you can afford.

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