Health Insurance

Cheap Health Insurance: Find Low-Cost 2022 Plans

Cheap Health Insurance: Find Low-Cost 2022 Plans

The cheapest individual health insurance for most people is a Bronze plan, which provides basic coverage at affordable rates. Alternatively, those with low incomes can get free or low-cost insurance through Medicaid.

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A cheap individual health insurance plan costs about $336 per month, which is the average cost of the most affordable Bronze plan in each state.

But many people don't have to pay full price. Those with low to moderate incomes pay a discounted rate because of premium tax credits. For instance, a person earning $35,000 would pay an average of $47 per month for the cheapest Bronze plan in each state.

Health insurance policies and rates vary by location. In the list of health insurance plans below, you can see the cheapest Bronze plans offered in 2022, along with estimated costs at different income levels. Keep in mind that many factors go into pricing, and these plans may not be available in your ZIP code. However, they are a good starting point to help you find low-cost health insurance.

State
Cheapest Bronze plan
Full price
Cost at $55,000 income
Cost at $35,000 income
AlabamaBright Health Bronze 8700$398$259$112
AlaskaModa Pioneer Bronze 6500$416$55$0
ArizonaHealth Net/Ambetter Essential Care 1$518$407$159
ArkansasAmbetter Essential Care 1$311$311$66
CaliforniaL.A. Care Bronze 60 HMO$250$250$58
Show All Rows

Rates based on a 40-year old nonsmoking male.


Cheapest health insurance companies

In 2022, the cheapest health insurance company is Kaiser Permanente, which costs an average of $338 per month for a Bronze plan.

Availability varies, and if Kaiser does not offer plans in your area, other cheap providers include Friday Health Plan with a Bronze plan averaging $361 per month or Ambetter at $377 per month. Average rates are for a 40-year-old.

graph of cheapest health insurers
Rank
Insurer
Monthly cost
1Kaiser Permanente$338
2Friday Health Plan$361
3Ambetter$377
4Oscar Health$408
5Blue Cross Blue Shield$414
6Bright Health$420
7Anthem$428
8UnitedHealthcare$468
9Cigna$560

When evaluating affordable health insurance policies, some companies will consistently offer lower rates than others. However, there is frequently a tradeoff when choosing a low-cost provider. For example, Kaiser Permanente health insurance has a limited network of doctors, and Ambetter has below-average customer service. These factors are important to evaluate when choosing the best policy for your family.


How to choose the most affordable health insurance plan

The cheapest health insurance for you depends on your household income and your medical needs. 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.

For those who are looking for a cheap health plan and don't have insurance through a job, we recommend a Bronze plan. It has very low rates and coverage that includes essential health benefits like prescription drugs, mental health services and preventative care. Because of the additional discounts offered through the American Rescue Plan, about 80% of applicants can find a Bronze health insurance plan for $10 per month after tax credits.

For those who need moderate amounts of medical care or who want a little better coverage, it can be more cost effective to upgrade to a Silver plan. These plans cost a little more each month, but the better benefits can help you save on health care.

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 $17,774 or a family of four with an income less than $36,570.

Another option is a short-term health insurance plan, which can provide stop-gap coverage at affordable rates. However, plans don't usually have restrictions or limitations on coverage.

4 ways to get cheap health insurance

1. Bronze health insurance plan

  • Cheapest rates
  • Free preventative care
  • How much you pay depends on your income

2. Silver health insurance plan

  • More expensive than Bronze, but has better medical benefits
  • How much you pay depends on your income
  • Only tier that's eligible for cost-sharing reductions to lower the cost of medical care

3. Medicaid

  • Free or low-cost health insurance
  • Only available for those who are low income

4. Short-term health insurance

  • Cheap policies for stop-gap coverage
  • Does not have essential health benefits
  • Usually has restrictions on who can be covered and for how long
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Cheapest Bronze plans

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Kaiser Permanente
  • $338 per month
  • Top-rated health insurance
  • Narrow network of doctors
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Friday Health Plan
  • $361 per month
  • Plans have wellness perks
  • Less-established company
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Ambetter
  • $377 per month
  • Can earn up to $500 in rewards
  • High rate of complaints

Monthly costs are an average across 2022 Bronze and Expanded Bronze plans for a 40-year old purchasing a full-price plan. The average was calculated across eight states using CMS data.

A Bronze plan is the most affordable health insurance with full medical benefits. These plans adhere to the Affordable Care Act guidelines and must include free preventative care as well as the following essential health benefits:

  • Outpatient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • 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. Here are the two best ways to save.

  1. Choose a cheap plan within the Bronze tier: The average cost of a Bronze plan in 2022 is $408 per month. However, the cheapest Bronze plans in each state cost an average of $336 per month. That's a typical savings of $72 per month by shopping around for the best deal.
  2. Sign up for tax credits: Those who have low to moderate incomes can use premium tax credits to reduce health insurance costs. The amount of discount is based on your income and family size. Those who earn $35,000 per year would pay an average of $47 per month for the cheapest Bronze plan in their state. That's an average savings of $289 per month.

A Bronze plan can be purchased through Healthcare.gov or your state marketplace, which automatically calculates your health insurance costs based on your income and household size.

There are downsides to a Bronze health insurance plan. Even though monthly rates are low, the high deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums will mean that the cost of medical care could 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 cost-sharing benefits won't kick in until after you spent $5,000 out-of-pocket on your medical care. For many enrollees, this means paying out of pocket for most health care costs.

A Bronze plan will give you free preventative care and discounts on some health services, but if you expect to need a moderate amount of medical care, consider paying more for a Silver plan because of its better benefits.

But these plans also have an important benefit. A Bronze plan will give you financial protection from very high costs if you have an unexpected medical situation during the policy year. For example, if you need emergency surgery, these cheap health insurance plans would cap your annual costs at a maximum of $8,700 for in-network medical care. In comparison, those who are uninsured could face a $100,000 hospital bill for the same medical care.

This makes a Bronze plan a cheap way to protect against the high costs of surprise medical needs and major injuries.


Cheapest Silver plans

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Kaiser Permanente
  • $460 per month
  • Includes wellness benefits
  • Also has cheap dental plans
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Ambetter
  • $471 per month
  • Can earn up to $500 in rewards
  • High rate of complaints
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Oscar
  • $502 per month
  • Free 24/7 Virtual Urgent Care
  • Available in select states

Monthly costs are an average across 2022 Silver plans for a 40-year old purchasing a full-price plan. This average was calculated across eight states using CMS data.

A Silver-tier plan is a good cheap 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 health care.

Like Bronze plans, those shopping for Silver plans may qualify for reduced monthly rates through tax credits. For 2022, about half 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 discount that you get from tax credits is based on your income and family size.

Silver plans have another advantage. Those with low incomes can also qualify for cost-sharing reductions which lowers the coinsurance and deductible on each plan. This means you'll pay less for each doctor visit or medical treatment, and you'll also pay less out of pocket 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.

When comparing Bronze and Silver plans, keep in mind that the cheapest health insurance policy for you is not always the plan with the absolute lowest monthly rate. Instead, the most affordable option is the policy that provides the right amount of health insurance coverage, depending on your medical needs and health. That's why a Silver plan, with its better benefits, can result in lower overall costs. The extra amount you pay for a plan can be offset by savings on medical care.

As you can see in the table below, a Silver plan will typically have a much lower deductible than a Bronze plan. This means that the plan's full benefits will begin sooner.

Silver
Bronze
Monthly cost (full price)$525$408
Deductible $4,177$7,638
Out-of-pocket maximum $7,610$8,068

Average of rates and benefits in 2022 plans offered in a sample of eight states. Bronze category does not include Expanded Bronze plans.

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 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 must be less than either 133% or 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL). The 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.

Although the income threshold will vary by state, those living in 36 states with expanded Medicaid can qualify for coverage with incomes less than $17,774 as an individual or less than $36,570 as a family of four. The income threshold will be higher in Alaska and Hawaii, which have higher FPL amounts. States that have not expanded their Medicaid program will have lower income caps for who can qualify for Medicaid.

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 towards families who are lower income but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Find out if you qualify for Medicaid, CHIP or a reduced cost health insurance plan with the HealthCare.gov savings calculator.


Cheapest short-term health insurance

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Everest
  • $132+ per month
  • $50 doctor and specialist visits
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PIVOT
  • $150+ per month
  • High rate of complaints
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UnitedHealthcare
  • $170+ per month for a $2,500 deductible plan

Monthly costs for the three cheapest providers, among our recommendations for the best short-term insurers. Rates are based on quotes for a 40-year-old male nonsmoker in Phoenix.

Short-term health insurance is usually more affordable than a full-price health insurance plan on the marketplace. These plans are best in situations where you need a stop-gap health insurance solution.

For example, if there is a waiting period before your marketplace plan or employer health insurance begins, a short-term health insurance plan is a way to have coverage during the transition.

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 or had a life event like moving or getting married, you'll qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up for health insurance through the marketplace.

  • This gives you a 30 to 60 day window to access traditional coverage, including Bronze and Silver options.
  • You'll have the ability to qualify for the same discounts, such as subsidies and cost reductions.
  • You can also 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.
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Frequently asked questions

How can I get affordable health insurance?

The cheapest health insurance plan depends on your situation. 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 by anyone during the annual open enrollment period (Nov. 1 through Jan. 15). 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 still buy coverage. However, qualification usually only occurs if you have lost a job, had a child or recently gotten married.

How do I choose the most affordable health insurance company?

The most affordable health insurance company primarily depends on where you live. Companies vary the plans that they offer by state, and thus it is important to start by finding the available companies in your region. 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.

Methodology

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. Our costs are based on a 40-year-old male nonsmoker. Plans were analyzed 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 2022 health insurance plans offered in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. Costs for short-term health insurance policies are for Phoenix.

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.