Health Insurance

Best Cheap Health Insurance in California 2021

Best Cheap Health Insurance in California 2021

The average monthly cost of health insurance in California is $546 for a 40-year-old. In California, cheap health insurance can be purchased through the online state insurance exchange or acquired through Medicaid if your household income falls below 138% of the federal poverty level.

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We compared quotes for health plans and concluded that the Silver 70 EPO and Silver 70 HMO were the most affordable Silver plans in most counties of California. Note that in California, there are many companies where you can buy individual health insurance, but they may not all be available in your county.

Cheapest health insurance coverage by metal tier

We researched and compared health plans offered on the Covered California marketplace to identify the most affordable health insurance option at each level of coverage. Marketplace health insurance is available if you do not currently receive coverage through an employer or from the federal government.

For example, if you are self-employed and need health insurance, you would purchase an individual plan through the health insurance marketplace.

The table below shows the cheapest health insurance policies for each metal tier, each plan's deductible, out-of-pocket maximums and the monthly premium for a 40-year-old. These health plans should be used as a starting point for evaluating your coverage needs and gauging the expected cost of a given tier.

Bronze
Silver
Gold
Platinum
Cheapest planBronze 60 HMOSilver 70 HMOGold 80 HMOPlatinum 90 HMO
Deductible$6,300$4,000$0$0
Out-of-pocket maximum$8,200$8,200$8,200$4,500
Monthly premium for a 40-year-old$253$325$341$392

As you can see, health insurance in California is offered through four different metal tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The higher tiers (Gold and Platinum) have the most expensive premiums along with the smallest deductibles, while lower tiers like Bronze and Silver — or even Catastrophic health insurance — have high deductibles but cheap monthly premiums. For example, the monthly rate for the Gold plan is 35% more expensive than the price of the Bronze plan.

A key determinant for the price of health insurance is the age of the insured. The graph below shows the average monthly costs of health insurance depending on the metal tier of the policy and your age.

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For example, for a Silver health plan, a 40-year-old in California will pay 28% more on average for the same coverage when compared to a 21-year-old. The jump in monthly cost grows even larger as you get older, with a 60-year-old paying, on average, 112% more than a 40-year-old for Silver-tier coverage.

Cheapest health insurance companies in California

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Finding your best health insurance coverage in California

The best health insurance coverage for you will depend on the availability of plans in your county as well as your medical and financial situation. For example, California has approved expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, anyone with a household income below 138% of the federal poverty level would likely be better served by Medicaid.

When evaluating plans and your needs, you should carefully review the premiums and deductibles for private health insurance to determine what's affordable. Typically, if you expect moderate to high medical costs, then choosing a higher metal tier plan with more expensive premiums but lower cost-sharing rates would make more financial sense.

Gold and Platinum: Best if you expect high medical costs

Platinum and Gold health plans are the highest tiers offered by the Covered California exchange. These policies have the highest premiums but come with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. Due to these lower limits, Gold and Platinum plans can be the most cost-effective for those with higher medical bills, as you would reach the deductible quickly and then have access to coinsurance through your provider.

Silver: Best for people with low income or average medical costs

Silver health plans are middle-ground policies on the health insurance marketplace with regard to premiums and deductibles. We would recommend a Silver plan in most situations, but if you are very healthy, Bronze may be the most cost-effective plan.

On the other hand, if you know you will have high medical costs, then a Gold plan may be better.

All health plans except Catastrophic offer premium tax credits, but Silver plans are eligible for additional cost-sharing reductions if your income falls below 250% of the federal poverty level. If you are eligible, then you would be able to receive discounts on the amount you would be required to pay in deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.

Bronze: Best for young, healthy individuals

Bronze plans have the cheapest premiums but also the highest deductibles. These low-cost plans are best for people in excellent health who do not expect to have high medical costs during the year. Bronze policies provide coinsurance coverage once you have met the deductible like other metal tier plans. But, due to the high deductible, this would only occur in the case of a costly medical expense.

Health insurance rate changes in the largest California counties

Health insurance rates are set by insurance providers and then provided to state regulators for approval. Therefore, it is vital to compare year-over-year rates to understand if your plan increased or decreased for the coming year.

For 2021, most of the seven largest counties in California experienced slight decreases in the average cost of a health insurance policy for a 40-year-old.

Santa Clara County saw the largest increase — rising by over 3.24%. This amounted to a year-over-year increase of $19.

County
2019 rate
2020 rate
2021 rate
% diff
Alameda$548$606$605-0.19%
Los Angeles$424$451$438-2.96%
Orange$430$471$455-3.32%
Riverside$402$409$397-2.86%
San Bernardino$402$438$430-1.82%
San Diego$445$476$464-2.34%
Santa Clara$532$594$6133.24%

2019, 2020 and 2021 premiums are for a 40-year-old adult.

Short-term health insurance in California

Short-term health insurance plans are not available for purchase in California. In 2018, Senate Bill 910 was passed by California lawmakers, which effectively banned the sale and renewal of all temporary health policies starting January 1, 2019.

Prior to this law, California had its own set of legislation that limited the term of short-term policies to 185 days. Often, short-term plans do not cover the essential benefits — such as maternity, mental health and prescription drugs — which is why lawmakers pushed for the ban on these types of health insurance products.

COBRA insurance in California

In California, COBRA insurance is available and required to be offered by employers. COBRA insurance allows for the continuation of group insurance benefits for a specified time if you were fired or quit your job. This insurance only allows for the extension of coverage if the employee and their dependents have experienced a qualifying life event.

Student health insurance in California

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

  • Stay 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.

Best cheap health insurance companies in California

There are currently 10 insurers that sell individual health insurance plans on the Covered California marketplace:

  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Blue Shield
  • Health Net
  • Molina Healthcare
  • SHARP Health Plan
  • Anthem Blue Cross
  • Western Health Advantage
  • Oscar Health Plan
  • L.A. Care
  • Chinese Community
  • Valley Health

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

Cheapest silver plan by county

Depending on where you live, you may pay different rates for a particular health insurance policy, since prices are determined by county. To help you find your best-priced coverage, below we have provided a list of the cheapest Silver health insurance plans available in each county.

County
Issuer
Cheapest plan
Age 21
Age 40
Age 60
AlamedaKaiser PermanenteSilver 70 HMO$389$498$1,057
AlpineKaiser PermanenteSilver 70 HMO$269$343$729
AmadorAnthem Blue CrossSilver 70 EPO$436$557$1,183
ButteAnthem Blue CrossSilver 70 EPO$436$557$1,183
CalaverasAnthem Blue CrossSilver 70 EPO$436$557$1,183
Show All Rows

Recap of the best cheap health insurance in California

  • Bronze: Bronze 60 HMO
  • Silver: Silver 70 HMO
  • Gold: Gold 80 HMO
  • Platinum: Platinum 90 HMO

Frequently asked questions

What is the average cost of health insurance in California?

The average cost of health insurance in California in 2021 is $546 for a 40-year-old. However, rates may vary depending on the metal tier of health insurance you select and your age. For example, 40-year-olds have an average cost of health insurance that is 28% more expensive than that of 20-year-olds.

Which company has the most affordable health insurance in California?

In California, the cheapest company is Kaiser Permanente, which has policies that are the cheapest in the state compared to other providers. In 2021, the Silver 70 HMO plan has a monthly cost of $325 for a 40-year-old.

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 will be able to select a policy that fits your needs at an affordable rate.

Methodology

Health insurance rates and plans 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, family size and county.

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.

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