Health Insurance

How to Get Cheap Health Insurance in 2021

How to Get Cheap Health Insurance in 2021

Find Cheap Health Insurance Quotes in Your Area

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Health insurance is available for purchase through many different services and providers. From private care to public options, there are many different types of health insurance to choose from.

The cheapest health insurance option is to enroll in the federal Medicaid program, but eligibility depends on the state you live in, as well as your income level. For many individuals, the best deal is individual health insurance, which can be found through your state marketplace. On this exchange, you can search for and compare affordable health insurance plans from multiple companies.

What is Medicaid?

For individuals who are eligible, the cheapest health insurance option is Medicaid. In order to be eligible in the federal insurance program, your household income must be less than either 133% or 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL). The exact eligibility level depends on the state that you live in, since some states have passed legislation to expand their Medicaid programs to more low-income adults.

What is the best cheap individual health insurance?

For those who are not eligible for Medicaid coverage, the cheapest health insurance with full medical benefits is individual coverage, which can be purchased through your state marketplace. Full benefits mean that these health insurance plans provide comprehensive coverage for all 10 of the essential health benefits required to be covered under the Affordable Care Act. The 10 essential health benefits are:

  • Outpatient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance abuse care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative services
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventative and wellness services
  • Pediatric services

Important note

The cheapest health insurance policy is not always the plan with the lowest premium. Instead, the most affordable option is the policy that provides the right amount of health insurance coverage — depending on your medical needs and health — at your best rate.

We compared individual health insurance plans offered on all state health insurance marketplaces to identify the lowest-cost option at each level of coverage. A marketplace policy is available if you do not currently receive coverage through an employer or the federal government.

Bronze: lowest rates, high out-of-pocket expenses

Bronze metal tier health insurance policies are the cheapest available on state health insurance marketplaces. Although they have the lowest premiums, the deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums are higher than for the other tiers. For this reason, if you expect to have large medical expenses in the coming year, we do not recommend a Bronze policy.

You may notice that your state has a catastrophic health insurance policy. This is an even lower-cost marketplace health insurance option that is only available if you are under 30 years old or have a hardship exemption.

Silver: cheap rates for low-income households

Silver health insurance policies are middle-ground plans that have modest premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. For many low-income families, a Silver plan is the most affordable medical insurance due to cost-sharing reductions, which allow eligible individuals to receive reductions on the amount they pay in premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

You are eligible for reductions if your household income is less than 250% of the federal poverty level. This can reduce premiums significantly and make the Silver plan an excellent choice for many families.

Gold: high premiums, but low out-of-pocket expenses

Gold health insurance plans are often the most expensive that you can purchase on your state marketplace. However, Gold plans have the most affordable deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. For this reason, a Gold health insurance policy can help you save money if you expect high medical expenses during the plan year.

For example, if you need to refill an expensive drug prescription on a monthly basis, then you should consider Gold health insurance.

If you expect high medical bills, you may also want to consider Platinum health insurance. Platinum policies have relatively expensive premiums, but also the cheapest deductibles — frequently $0. However, these plans are not available in all states.

What is the cheapest individual health insurance in my state?

The best affordable health insurance policy for you is a plan that provides adequate health coverage for you and your family. In most situations, this means that it covers the basics, but is also there if there is a serious medical emergency that ends up being expensive during the plan year.

We recommend beginning your search by looking at a Silver health insurance policy if you are buying coverage from your health insurance marketplace. As mentioned above, these plans have modest premiums with minimal out-of-pocket expenses in case you or a loved one gets sick or injured. Furthermore, the Silver policy deductibles are usually lower and easier to reach.

StateCheapest companyCheapest Silver planMonthly cost for a 40-year-old
AlabamaBlue Cross Blue Shield of AlabamaBlue Cross Select Silver$452
AlaskaPremera Blue Cross Blue Shield of AlaskaPremera Blue Cross Preferred Silver 3000 HSA$658
ArizonaBlue Cross Blue Shield of ArizonaBlue AdvanceHealth Silver - PimaFocus Network$330
ArkansasAmbetter from Arkansas Health & WellnessAmbetter Balanced Care 12 (2021)$387
CaliforniaKaiser PermanenteSilver 70 HMO$325
ColoradoKaiser PermanenteKP CO Silver 2500/25$278
ConnecticutConnectiCareChoice Silver Standard POS$479
DelawareHighmark Blue Cross Blue Shield DelawareHealth Savings Embedded Blue EPO Silver 3450 HSA$522
FloridaOscarOscar Silver Saver$408
GeorgiaCareSourceCareSource Marketplace Low Premium Silver$416
HawaiiKaiser PermanenteKP HI Silver 4000/45$467
IdahoBlue Cross of IdahoCPN North Central Silver 6000$467
IllinoisBright HealthSilver 5000$337
IndianaAmbetter from MHSAmbetter Balanced Care 29 (2021)$329
IowaOscarOscar Silver Saver$457
KansasAmbetter from Sunflower Health PlanAmbetter Balanced Care 12 (2021)$441
KentuckyAnthem Blue Cross and Blue ShieldAnthem Silver Pathway X Transition HMO 4650 for HSA$406
LouisianaCHRISTUS Health PlanCHP LA Basic Silver - Two Free PCP Visits$407
MaineHarvard Pilgrim Health CareMaine's Choice Plus HMO Silver 6500$392
MarylandKaiser PermanenteKP MD Silver 3200/20%/HSA/Vision$339
MassachusettsBMC HealthNet PlanStandard Silver: BMC HealthNet Plan Silver A II$344
MichiganAmbetter from MeridianAmbetter Balanced Care 12 (2021)$292
MinnesotaUCareUCare M Health Fairview Silver HSA$265
MississippiAmbetter from Magnolia HealthAmbetter Balanced Care 12 (2021)$419
MissouriCigna HealthcareCigna Connect 5500$413
MontanaBlue Cross and Blue Shield of MontanaBlue Focus Silver POS℠ 206$356
NebraskaMedicaMedica with CHI Health Silver Copay$527
NevadaFriday Health PlansFriday Silver$352
New HampshireAmbetter from New Hampshire Healthy FamiliesAmbetter Balanced Care 11 (2021)$325
New JerseyHorizonOMNIA Silver Value$388
New MexicoMolina HealthcareConstant Care Silver 1$313
New YorkFidelis CareFidelis Care, Silver, ST, INN, Fidelis Care HBX Network, Pediatric Dental, Dep25, Free Telemedicine$473
North CarolinaBright HealthSilver 5000$373
North DakotaMedicaAltru Prime by Medica Silver Copay$400
OhioAmbetter from Buckeye HealthAmbetter Balanced Care 29 (2021)$311
OklahomaBright HealthSilver 5000$476
OregonProvidence Health PlanConnect 4500 Silver$402
PennsylvaniaHighmark Coverage Advantage IncTogether Blue EPO Silver 3450 HSA$343
Rhode IslandNeighborhood Health PlanNeighborhood COMMUNITY$328
South CarolinaAmbetter from Absolute Total CareAmbetter Balanced Care 29 (2021)$391
South DakotaSanford Health PlanSanford TRUE $4,750$473
TennesseeCigna HealthcareCigna Connect 7300$428
TexasBlue Cross and Blue Shield of TexasMyBlue Health Silver℠ 405$381
UtahSelectHealthValue Benchmark Silver 6500 - no deductible for office visits$443
VermontMVP Health CareMVP VT Plus Reflective Silver 1$574
VirginiaCigna HealthcareCigna Connect 6500$392
WashingtonCoordinated CareAmbetter Balanced Care 1 (2021)$344
West VirginiaCareSourceCareSource Marketplace Low Premium Silver$508
WisconsinCommon Ground Healthcare CooperativeEnvision - Silver 7000/75$343
WyomingBlue Cross Blue Shield of WyomingBlueSelect Silver Balance$647

How do I choose the most affordable medical insurance?

The most affordable health insurance depends on your household income. The cheapest option is to enroll in Medicaid if your income falls below 138% of the federal poverty level. This is a federally funded health insurance program that provides health benefits to low-income individuals. For those not eligible for this option, the most affordable solution may be through your state marketplace, as well as off-exchange plans, including short-term health insurance policies.

It's important to note that the cheapest health insurance plan may not always be the right policy for you. Therefore, to find the best value coverage, you should evaluate your medical needs before buying a health insurance policy.

Short-term health insurance

Short-term health insurance is cheaper than marketplace health care. These plans have low-cost monthly premiums, but the policies may only extend a few months — up to one year at most, depending on short-term health insurance laws in your state.

Another reason for the reduced cost is that short-term health insurance is not required to cover the same health benefits as individual medical plans. These health policies typically will not cover all of the essential health benefits covered under the Affordable Care Act insurance found on your state marketplace.

Cheap health insurance for students

Students often have additional health insurance options. Many universities and colleges provide free health insurance to students through a school-sponsored plan. These policies typically provide health insurance for most on-campus medical services, but you may lose the coverage if you become a part-time student or transfer schools.

Another option for some students is to purchase a student health plan. These health insurance policies are designed for full-time students between the ages of 17 and 29. Plans can be bought through most large health insurance companies and are paid either by an annual or semiannual premium. A student health plan can be a great cheap medical insurance option because you will not lose your coverage if you decide to transfer to a different school.

Cheapest health insurance companies

When evaluating affordable health insurance policies, you will find that there are some companies that consistently offer cheaper rates than others. However, these providers may not offer policies with as many benefits as other plans. This is an important factor to evaluate when searching for the best policy for your family.

For example, our analysis found that in nine states, the cheapest health insurance company that offers Silver marketplace health insurance is Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

Health insurance providerNumber of states with cheapest Silver plan
Blue Cross Blue Shield9
Kaiser Permanente4
Bright Health3
Cigna Health and Life Company3
CHRISTUS Health Plan1
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care1
BMC HealthNet Plan1
Friday Health Plans1
Molina Healthcare1
Fidelis Care1
Providence Health Plan1
Highmark Coverage Advantage Inc1
Neighborhood Health Plan1
Sanford Health Plan1
MVP Health Care1
Coordinated Care1
Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative1


Health insurance premiums and plans found in this report were aggregated from Public Use Files (PUF) on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website.

Sterling Price

Sterling Price is a research analyst at ValuePenguin specializing in health and life insurance. He graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelors degree in Finance and Accounting and has previous experience as a licensed life insurance representative.

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.