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Best Cheap Health Insurance in California 2023

Best Cheap Health Insurance in California 2023

Kaiser Permanente and Anthem Blue Cross have the best cheap Silver health insurance plans for most people in California.

Find Cheap Health Insurance Quotes in California

Currently insured?

L.A. Care and Molina Healthcare have some of the cheapest rates, but their plans are only available to a few Californians. Both companies sell the most affordable Silver health insurance plan in California, Silver 70 HMO.

In California, you'll shop for plans through the state health insurance exchange called Covered California. Here you can also find out if you qualify for Medicaid or insurance discounts based on your household income and family size.

Cheapest health insurance coverage by metal tier

The cheapest Silver plan in California is from L.A. Care and costs $316 per month for a 40-year-old.

Among plans offered on the Covered California marketplace, L.A. Care has the most affordable health insurance, with rates that are about $200 per month cheaper than the average cost by metal tier.

Metal tier
Cheapest plan
Cost
Deductible
Out-of-pocket max
BronzeL.A. Care Bronze 60 HMO$259$6,300$8,200
SilverL.A. Care Silver 70 HMO$316$4,750$8,750
GoldL.A. Care Gold 80 HMO$331$0$8,550
PlatinumL.A. Care Platinum 90 HMO$377$0$4,500

Monthly cost for a 40-year-old.

Covered California insurance plans are available to people who aren't covered by an employer plan or a public program like Medicare or Medicaid.

For example, if you are self-employed and need health insurance, you may be able to purchase an individual plan through the health insurance marketplace. Keep in mind that an HMO plan is typically a great way to get a more affordable rate on coverage.

Higher-tier plans like Gold and Platinum have the most expensive monthly costs along with the smallest deductibles, while lower tiers like Bronze and Silver — or even Catastrophic health insurance — have high deductibles but cheap monthly costs. For example, the monthly rate for the Gold plan is 35% more expensive than a Bronze plan.

Average cost by age and metal tier

The price of health insurance is based on your age and the metal tier you choose.

For example, a 40-year-old Californian shopping for a Silver health plan will pay 28% more, on average, than a 21-year-old for the same coverage. Monthly costs grow even larger as you get older, with a 60-year-old paying, on average, 45% more than a 40-year-old for Silver-tier coverage.

The cheapest options at any age are Bronze plans.

California health insurance costs

Find Cheap Health Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Currently insured?

Average cost of health insurance in California

Metal tier
Age 21
Age 40
Age 60
Bronze$368$470$598
Silver$424$541$784
Gold$495$632$984
Platinum$648$828$1,391

How can I lower my health insurance costs?

Tax credits, often called subsidies, are the best way to save on health insurance if you aren't eligible for Medi-Cal (California's Medicaid program) or if you lose Medi-Cal coverage.

  • Premium tax credits: People with low to moderate incomes may qualify for tax credits that discount the monthly cost of insurance based on income and family size. These discounts can be applied to any plan you choose, sometimes lowering the cost of health insurance to $35 per month or less.
  • Cost-sharing reductions: This program reduces your medical costs by lowering deductibles, copays and coinsurance, for those who qualify based on income and family size. They only work for Silver plans but can be combined with a premium tax credit to save you even more money throughout the year.

When you search Covered California plans, the site asks for your income and family size and calculates your potential premium savings. From the list of available plans, you can filter to view options that offer cost-sharing subsidies.

Use the calculator below to find out how much you could save based on your income and family size.

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Health Insurance Subsidy Calculator

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How to find your best health insurance coverage in California

Your best health insurance plan will be one that covers your health needs without breaking your budget.

  1. Create a list of what you need most in a plan. For example, you could start with a list of your prescriptions and preferred health care providers.
  2. Review the metal tiers to find the level of coverage that best meets your health needs.
  3. Create or access your account on California's state health insurance exchange, Covered California.
  4. From the Covered California "Get Started" page, you can check first to see if you qualify for Medi-Cal.
  5. If Medi-Cal isn't an option, start your search for a plan on Covered California. Be sure to enter your income and family size to find out if you can get help with your costs.

When you apply for a plan on Covered California, the system will review your eligibility for Medi-Cal based on your income and family size and will let you know if you qualify.

Comparing health insurance tiers

Carefully review plan costs and deductibles to see what's best for you. Typically, if you expect moderate to high medical costs, choosing a higher metal tier plan with more expensive premiums but better cost-sharing benefits makes the most financial sense.

All plans provide the 10 essential health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

bronze
silver
gold
platinum

Bronze: Best for young, healthy individuals

Bronze plans have the lowest rates but the highest deductibles. This means you'll keep your monthly costs low, but you'll pay more for your medical care. As with all ACA plans, a Bronze policy covers preventive care and other essential health needs. And because plans have a high spending cap, called the out-of-pocket maximum, you'll pay more out of pocket if you have a medical emergency or need a costly medical procedure.

Silver: Best for people with low incomes or average medical needs

Silver plans have a good balance of monthly rates and out-of-pocket costs. For those who qualify, Silver plans also offer cost-sharing reductions in addition to the premium subsidies available on metal-tier plans.

Considering the monthly rates, coverage and potential subsidies available, Silver plans are a good fit for most consumers.

Gold: Best for those with significant medical needs

Gold plans cost more than Silver or Bronze plans, but you pay less for medical care. These plans are best if you need ongoing medical care or take costly prescriptions.

Platinum: Best for those with the greatest medical need

Platinum plans are the most expensive in California but typically have the lowest deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. If you expect to have high medical costs for the year, you'll meet the deductible more quickly and your benefits will begin sooner with a Platinum plan.

Health insurance rate changes in California

In 2023, the average cost of health insurance in California increased slightly, by 1%, based on a 40-year-old buying a Silver plan.

However, there were steeper cost increases in some of the largest counties such as Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino — about 8%, on average. Rate decreases occurred in other large counties, including a 3% decrease in San Francisco, 7% in Sonoma and 12% in Merced.

Health insurance companies in California

Currently, 12 insurers sell individual health insurance plans on the Covered California marketplace. L.A. Care has the most affordable rates, and Kaiser Permanente has the highest-quality ratings.

Company
Monthly cost
Rating
L.A. Care logo
L.A. Care$3303.0
Molina logo
Molina$3842.0
Sharp Health Plan logo
SHARP Health Plan$4394.0
Aetna logo
Aetna$456N/A
Health Net logo
Health Net$4902.0
Show All Rows

Average cost of a Silver plan for a 40-year-old, and ratings are out of 5 stars. Aetna is too new in California to have quality ratings.

Find plans

The availability of insurers and health plans changes by county, so your location will directly impact your insurance plan options.

Cheapest Silver plan by county

The cheapest health insurance plan largely depends on where you live because prices change by county. For example, the cheapest Silver plan in Los Angeles is from L.A. Care, and Kaiser Permanente is the cheapest in San Diego.

County
Cheapest plan
Company
Age 21
Age 40
Age 60
AlamedaSilver 70 EPOAnthem Blue Cross$413$529$700
AlpineSilver 70 HMOAnthem Blue Cross$281$359$682
AmadorSilver 70 EPOAnthem Blue Cross$431$551$549
ButteSilver 70 EPOAnthem Blue Cross$431$551$549
CalaverasSilver 70 EPOAnthem Blue Cross$431$551$549
Show All Rows

Monthly cost for the cheapest Silver plan.

Recap of the best cheap health insurance in California

  • Bronze: L.A. Care Bronze 60 HMO
  • Silver: L.A. Care Silver 70 HMO
  • Gold: L.A. Care Gold 80 HMO
  • Platinum: L.A. Care Platinum 90 HMO
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Other health insurance in California

Other insurance options are available for California residents. COBRA plans are typically offered after a loss of employer coverage, but they can be expensive. And while students can enroll in an Obamacare plan through Covered California, they may have access to their parents' coverage or a health plan sponsored by their school.

Short-term medical policies are sold in many states but are currently banned by the state of California.

COBRA insurance

In California, COBRA insurance is available and required to be offered by employers. COBRA insurance allows you to continue the health insurance you had through a job after you're no longer employed. You'll typically need to sign up for COBRA in the 60 days after ending your job.

COBRA can be expensive, often costing more than $600 per month because you're paying the full cost of the health insurance plan rather than splitting the cost with your employer. In most cases, it will be cheaper to get a plan through Covered California, where you may qualify for discounted rates based on your income.

Short-term health insurance

Short-term health plans are not sold in California, but low-cost health insurance plans are available through the ACA.

In 2018, California lawmakers passed Senate Bill 910, which effectively banned the sale and renewal of all temporary health policies. Prior to this law, California had its own legislation that limited the term of short-term policies to 185 days. Short-term plans often do not cover the essential benefits — such as maternity, mental health and prescription drugs — so lawmakers pushed for the ban on these types of health insurance products.

Student health insurance

If you are a college student, you can purchase individual health insurance through the Covered California portal. But students in California have other options for obtaining health insurance, including:

  • Staying on your parents' plan: You have the option to stay covered under your parents' health insurance policy until the age of 26.
  • School-sponsored plan: Some colleges offer their own health insurance plans, although they may not cover off-campus services, and you could lose your coverage if you become a part-time student or transfer schools.
  • Student health plan: These health insurance plans are designed for full-time students between the ages of 17 and 29. Policies can be purchased through the same insurance providers that offer marketplace coverage. Student health plans are paid through an annual or semiannual premium and can be a good option because they travel with you wherever you study in the U.S.

Frequently asked questions

When can I enroll in a health plan in California?

You can enroll in Covered California (Obamacare) during the annual open enrollment period, which runs from November 1 to January 31. In addition, those who have a low income or a qualifying event, such as losing other health insurance or getting married, can sign up any time of the year via a special enrollment period.

What is the average cost of health insurance in California?

The average cost of health insurance in California is $541 per month for a 40-year-old purchasing a Silver plan. However, rates may vary depending on your location, your age and the plan's metal tier. For example, a 40-year-old would pay 28% more than a 21-year-old, and a 40-year-old could save $71 per month by choosing a Bronze plan.

Which company has the most affordable health insurance in California?

In California, the best health insurance rates are through L.A. Care and Molina. A Silver plan from L.A. Care averages $330 per month, and one from Molina plan averages $384. That's much cheaper than the statewide average of $541 for a Silver plan.

How do I get cheap health insurance in California?

The best way to find the cheapest health insurance in California is to compare policies from multiple health care providers. By getting quotes from several companies, you'll be able to understand which company has the most expensive rates and why. Finally, by evaluating what you need in a health plan, you can select a policy that fits your needs at the best rate.

What's the income limit to qualify for Covered California?

An individual who earns at least $13,590 per year can enroll in a health insurance plan on Covered California, and there is no upper limit on who can sign up. Most people who earn between $13,590 and $54,360 will qualify for discounts to reduce the cost of health insurance, and those who have higher incomes may also qualify based on their situation.

Does California have free health insurance?

There are two ways to get free or low-cost health insurance in California. Those who have a low income may qualify for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. Those who have a low to moderate income can enroll in a plan through Covered California, which discounts how much you pay for insurance based on your income and family size.

Methodology

Health insurance plans, costs and ratings were pulled from the Covered California state health insurance exchange. Using the premiums, averages were determined for a variety of variables such as metal tier, age and county. Our cost analysis excludes Catastrophic plans, also called minimum coverage plans.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.