The cheapest individual health insurance for most people is a Bronze plan, which provides basic coverage for a low monthly cost.
But the plans with the cheapest rates may cost you more in the long run if you need expensive or ongoing medical care because you'll pay more for each health service or prescription. To find the best cheap health insurance for you, start with the level of health coverage you need and then compare the cheapest quotes.
Cheapest health insurance by state
A cheap individual health insurance plan costs about $328 per month for the most affordable Bronze plan in each state. But many people don't have to pay full price.
If you have a lower income, you can either pay a discounted rate on marketplace plans by using tax credits or get free or low-cost insurance through Medicaid.
For example, a person earning $35,000 a year would pay an average of $46 per month for the cheapest Bronze plan in each state.
Cheap Bronze health insurance monthly cost by income
Find Cheap Health Insurance Quotes in Your Area
Health insurance policy availability and rates vary by location and other factors like age and income. In particular, rates vary widely between states. The average cost of health insurance, across all levels of coverage, is cheapest in New Hampshire and Maryland, while those in Wyoming and West Virginia have the most expensive plan options.
Cheapest private health insurance companies
Kaiser Permanente is the cheapest health insurance company for 2023, with an average price of $343 per month for a Bronze plan.
If Kaiser doesn't offer plans in your area, other cheap providers include Aetna, which costs an average of $376 per month for a Bronze plan, and Oscar, at $401 per month.
Average cost of health insurance
When comparing affordable health insurance policies, you'll find that some companies will consistently offer lower rates than others. However, there is typically a trade-off. For example, Kaiser Permanente health insurance has a limited network of doctors, and Aetna has lower ratings for customer satisfaction than other major insurance companies. These factors are important to evaluate when choosing the best policy for your family.
How to choose the most affordable health insurance plan
Focus on choosing the right type of plan first because this will have a bigger impact on your total costs than the company you pick. The cheapest private health insurance for you depends on your household income and your medical needs.
4 ways to get cheap health insurance
- Cheapest rates
- Free preventive care
- How much you pay depends on your income
For those who are looking for a cheap health plan and don't have insurance through a job, we recommend a Bronze plan. Bronze plans have very low rates and coverage that includes the essential health benefits like prescription drugs, mental health services and preventive care. Because of the extra discounts that are available through 2025, about 80% of applicants can find a Bronze health insurance plan for $10 per month after tax credits.
- More expensive than Bronze but has better medical benefits
- How much you pay depends on your income
- Only type that's eligible for cost-sharing reductions to lower the cost of medical care
For those who need moderate amounts of medical care or who want slightly better coverage, it can be more cost-effective to upgrade to a Silver plan. These plans cost a little more each month than Bronze plans, but the better benefits can help you save on health care.
- Free or low-cost health insurance
- Only available for those with low incomes
Medicaid is the cheapest health insurance for those with low incomes. Eligibility varies by state, but in many states, you could qualify as an individual earning less than $18,754 or a family of four with an income less than $38,295.
- Cheap policies for temporary coverage
- May not cover essential medical services
- Usually has restrictions on who can be covered and for how long
Another option for low-cost coverage is a short-term health insurance plan. Plans can have rates as low as $100 to $200 per month. But the minimal benefits make them best for situations when you need stopgap coverage or benefits that begin immediately.
Cheapest Bronze health insurance plans
Monthly costs are an average across 2023 Bronze and Expanded Bronze plans for a 40-year-old purchasing a full-price plan. The average was calculated across states that use HealthCare.gov as their insurance marketplace.
The cheapest average rates for Bronze health insurance plans are from Kaiser Permanente, Aetna and Oscar.
A Bronze plan is the lowest-priced health insurance with full medical benefits, and the average cost of a Bronze plan for 2023 is $408 per month. These plans adhere to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidelines and must include free preventive care as well as the following benefits:
- Outpatient services
- Emergency services
- Maternity and newborn care
- Mental health and substance abuse care
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative services
- Laboratory services
- Pediatric services
The amount you pay for a Bronze plan will depend on the plan you choose and your income, and there are two ways to save:
- Choose a cheap plan within the Bronze tier: The cheapest Bronze plans in each state cost an average of $328 per month. That's a typical savings of nearly $100 per month by shopping around for the best deal.
- Sign up for tax credits: Those who have low to mid-level incomes can use premium tax credits to reduce health insurance costs. The amount of the discount is based on your income and family size. Those who earn $35,000 per year would pay an average of $46 per month for the cheapest Bronze plan in their state. That's an average savings of $282 per month.
A Bronze plan is a cheap way to protect against the high costs of surprise medical needs and major injuries.
For example, if you need emergency surgery, these cheap health insurance plans would cap your annual costs at a maximum of $9,100 for in-network medical care. In comparison, those who are uninsured could face a $100,000 hospital bill for the same medical care.
Plus, a Bronze plan will give you free preventive care, coverage for prescriptions and discounts on some health services.
Even though the monthly cost of a Bronze plan is low, the high deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums will mean that medical costs can be expensive.
This is why we generally recommend Bronze plans for those who are healthy and only need routine medical care. For example, if a Bronze plan's deductible is $5,000, most of the plan's medical benefits won't kick in until after you spend $5,000 on your medical care. For many enrollees, this means you'll pay in full for most health care costs.
If you expect to need a moderate amount of medical care, consider paying more for a Silver plan because of its better benefits.
ValuePenguin's health insurance subsidy calculator can help you determine if you qualify for discounts and how much you could save based on your age and location.
You can buy a Bronze plan through HealthCare.gov or your state marketplace, which automatically determines your health insurance costs based on your income and household size.
Most affordable Silver health insurance plans
Monthly costs are an average across 2023 Silver plans for a 40-year-old purchasing a full-price plan. This average was calculated across states that use HealthCare.gov as their insurance marketplace.
A Silver-tier plan is the best affordable health insurance plan because it has better benefits than a Bronze plan. Silver plans will cost more than Bronze, but it's worth it for those who expect to need moderate amounts of medical care.
By paying more each month for a Silver policy, you can reduce how much you spend on medical services, treatment and prescriptions.
Two ways to save on a Silver plan:
- Sign up for tax credits to reduce monthly costs: Like Bronze plans, Silver plans may qualify for reduced monthly rates through tax credits. For 2023, the majority of applicants will be able to find a Silver plan for $10 a month, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The amount of the discount that you get from tax credits is based on your income and family size.
- See if you qualify to reduce your medical costs: Those with low incomes can also qualify for cost-sharing reductions, which lower the coinsurance and deductible on a Silver plan. This means you'll pay less for each doctor visit or medical treatment, and you'll also pay less overall before the plan's full benefits begin. Cost-sharing reductions are only available for those who choose a Silver health insurance plan and have a household income less than 250% of the federal poverty level.
If you have moderate medical needs, the better benefits of a Silver plan can make it a better deal than a Bronze plan. That's because the extra amount you pay each month for a Silver plan is offset by savings on medical care.
When deciding which plan is right for you, consider where the tipping point is between the cost for a Bronze plan versus a Silver plan. For example, if a Silver plan costs $100 more per month, it would need to save you $1,200 per year in medical care to be worth it.
Medicaid: Cheapest health insurance for those with low incomes
For low-income households, Medicaid will be the cheapest health insurance plan offering good benefits that are free to low cost.
Medicaid eligibility is based on how much you make and the size of your household, as well as factors like disability and family status. In order to be eligible for the insurance program, your household income usually must be less than 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL).
Where you live determines the income limits for Medicaid eligibility:
- Those living in one of the 39 states with expanded Medicaid can qualify for coverage with incomes less than $18,754 as an individual or less than $38,295 as a family of four.
- In Alaska and Hawaii, you can earn more money and still qualify because the poverty threshold is higher.
- States that have not expanded their Medicaid programs will have lower income caps for who can qualify for Medicaid.
The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is another related government health insurance program that can provide coverage for children and, sometimes, pregnant women. CHIP is geared toward families who have a low income but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Cheapest short-term health insurance
Based on the three cheapest providers among our recommendations for the best short-term insurance companies. Rates are for a 40-year-old male nonsmoker in Austin, Texas, choosing a minimal coverage plan with a deductible between $10,000 and $15,000 and benefits up to $1 million.
Short-term health insurance is usually more affordable than a full-price health insurance plan on the marketplace, and these plans may be best if you need temporary coverage.
For example, a short-term plan is an affordable solution if you need coverage during the waiting period before your marketplace plan or employer health insurance begins.
Coverage may only last a few months — up to one year at most, depending on short-term health insurance laws in your state. And plans don't cover the same essential health benefits that you'd get with a Bronze or Silver plan. This could mean a plan may not cover preexisting conditions, maternity care or prescription drugs.
When choosing a short-term insurance plan, look closely at the plan's benefits and any restrictions. Because these plans are not regulated in the same way as traditional health insurance, they'll usually have a greater variation in coverage.
If you recently lost your health insurance, including Medicaid, or had a life event like moving or getting married, you'll qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up for a low-cost health insurance plan through the marketplace.
- This gives you a 30-to-60-day window to access traditional coverage, including Bronze and Silver options.
- You may qualify for discounts such as subsidies and cost reductions.
- You can keep a marketplace insurance plan for any length of time, canceling whenever you want, such as when you become eligible for health insurance through a new job.
Frequently asked questions
How can I get affordable health insurance?
First, check to see if you qualify for Medicaid coverage, which will always be the lowest-cost option available. If you are not eligible, then using ACA subsidies for individual health insurance coverage is the next most affordable option.
When can I purchase cheap health coverage?
Health insurance coverage can be purchased from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, during the annual open enrollment period. During this period, you can access your state or federal health insurance marketplace and shop around for coverage from a variety of providers. If you need coverage outside of this time, then you may qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP), which allows you to buy coverage outside of open enrollment. However, qualification only occurs under certain circumstances, such as if you have lost a job, had a child or recently gotten married.
How do I choose the most affordable health insurance company?
Start by finding the available companies in your region. Companies vary the plans that they offer by state. Once you have this list, you can get quotes and compare monthly premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums to choose the most affordable option.
Health insurance rates and plans found in this report were aggregated from public use files (PUFs) on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website. Costs are based on a 40-year-old male nonsmoker. Plans were compared by location, cost, benefits and third-party rankings. Plan availability, cost and subsidy amount vary by county.
The average cost per provider is based on 2023 health insurance plans offered in the 34 states that use HealthCare.gov as their health insurance marketplace. Costs for short-term health insurance policies are based on quotes for Austin, Texas.