Whether you are interested in Medicaid or Medicare services, you should learn about the insurance options that are available for low-income residents. The U.S. Health Insurance Marketplace enables you to search and find affordable options that are open during enrollment or special enrollment. Additionally, the Marketplace provides valuable information about the difference between Medicare vs. Medicaid and insurance plans’ eligibility requirements. 

Purchasing or qualifying for affordable health insurance enables you pay for medical expenses that may be too expensive to receive otherwise. Thus, it is essential to understand how to obtain insurance that you and your family can afford. There are a number of low cost health insurance options available. This includes private options in the Healthcare Marketplace, Medicare and Medicaid. Reviewing the following sections can help you determine which type of medical coverage is right for you, when you should start seeking healthcare plans and what the eligibility requirements are. 

How to Get Private Low Cost Health Insurance

The Health Insurance Marketplace is an online service used to apply for health insurance programs. It is available to individuals, families, small businesses through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace and providers.

Applying for cheap medical insurance through the Marketplace involves completing an application that assesses your eligibility for other government benefits as well. Affordable health insurance can be purchased from November 1 and December 15 of each calendar year, and the insurance plans will go into effect on January 1 of the following year. This is known as the enrollment period.

While having low cost health insurance is highly recommended, you may choose to abstain from coverage and, instead, face a tax penalty based on your household income. However, this penalty is not always applied at tax time, and legislation has recently been passed that eliminates the tax penalty for all plans in the year 2019 and beyond.

Therefore, no penalties are in place for not having health insurance in 2019 or later. However, it will still be beneficial for you to obtain some kind of low income health insurance. This is because medical emergencies are hard to predict and having coverage will decrease the costs of any services or procedures.  

Which Cheap Medical Insurance to Apply for

Medicare is a federal health insurance program reserved for older adults and individuals with severe disabilities. This insurance plan consists of hospital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Medicare Part B) and, in some cases, prescription drug coverage (Part D). Though each of these parts covers specific services that are necessary for many families, not all plans offer all parts. Although, you can customize the program to suit your health needs.

Conversely, Medicaid is a public assistance program geared toward needy families and individuals of all ages with low incomes. Mandatory benefits of Medicaid insurance include inpatient and outpatient hospital services and physician services. Under this program, you can also obtain diagnostic procedures such as labs and x-rays. Like Medicare plans, Medicaid has optional coverage options such as prescription drug coverage, physical therapy and occupational therapy. However, not all states provide or offer additional coverage.

How to Get Affordable Health Insurance

To get Medicaid insurance or a form of Medicare or private insurance, you have to assess the health insurance options available to you. First, you must determine what kind of policy you would like to have. Following is a list of some of the common healthcare plans available that you may apply for:

  • Private health insurance. These private insurance policies cover a wide range of medical services, depending on the policy and can be found through your employer, an association or an outside source. Policies are fairly traditional and may allow you to add extra members to your coverage. 
  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and healthcare plans. These plans may be purchased from your employer or as an individual or family plan. They are regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). To join an HMO, you must reside within the area of the HMO services. 
  • Medicaid. Low-income families and single residents may qualify for these healthcare benefits if they meet financial and medical requirements for enrollment. Because affordable health insurance is not always accessible through group or individual plans or policies, state and federal programs like these offer free coverage for needy residents and their families. 
  • Medicare and Medicare supplements. Government-sponsored Medicare and private Medicare supplement insurance can be purchased by eligible seniors. You must take Medicare income limits into account when selecting this healthcare option as your gross household income determines your eligibility for this type of insurance. 

Once you have chosen a suitable policy or healthcare plan, you will be able to file a health insurance application with your employer or a public program if you have a job that offers coverage or qualify for government coverage. However, purchasing individual or family cheap medical insurance outside of your workplace or a program requires you to do one of the following:

  • Call an insurance company directly. Any low cost health insurance provider can give you information on how to apply for coverage. They can direct you to an application or a quote listing potential premiums, deductibles and benefits. 
  • Contact a local Department of Insurance (DOI) agent or broker. Licensed DOI agents and brokers can match you with the right insurance policy based on your insurance needs, household size and budget. Visit the DOI’s website for the state in which you reside for more information on how to contact them. You are reminded to check their credentials before presenting them with personal details. 
  • Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace. Through this site, or your state’s own Marketplace alternative to HealthCare.gov, you can determine if you qualify for financial assistance, shop for and compare insurance policies and find out additional information about the types of insurance.

To secure low-cost or free medical insurance, you are advised to begin your search for insurance via the online Marketplace. You will be prompted to complete an eligibility form that will match you with potential insurance plans you may be eligible for, so you will likely receive the best deal by utilizing the Marketplace’s application.