Best Health Insurance Companies for Self-Employed of 2023

Aetna is best for tax credits and Oscar is best for value

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Affordability and adequate coverage are even more important when you’re self-employed and handling 100% of healthcare expenses yourself. If you work as an independent contractor, consultant, or gig worker, you’ll likely find the most affordable plans on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace or your state’s health exchange. But with so many carriers and plans to choose from, it can be difficult to select the right one. We evaluated tax incentives and costs (including premiums, copays, and deductibles), plan benefits, and third-party ratings to determine the top four health insurance companies for self-employed individuals.

Best Health Insurance Companies for Self-Employed of 2023

Best Health Insurance Companies for Self-Employed of 2023
Best Health Insurance Companies for Self-Employed of 2023

Best Value Plans : Oscar


Oscar logo

Oscar

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Best overall pricing of any health insurance provider we reviewed

  • Convenient health app for refills, rewards, and more

  • $0 virtual care with most plans

  • ACA plans available in 21 states

Cons
  • 2-star Healthcare.gov rating

Why We Chose It

Oscar is our top-ranked provider for the most affordable health insurance, with lower premiums and deductibles, on average, relative to the competition. And self-employed individuals will appreciate the convenience of the company’s health app, which allows you to find care, message your care team, refill your prescriptions, talk to a virtual care provider, track your deductible, and even get rewards for hitting your daily step goals—up to $100 per year. And with most plans, there’s a $0 copay for virtual care. And Oscar offers a variety of plan types and every available type of medical management program. 

That said, there are some issues with the quality of Oscar’s plans. The company’s star rating on Healthcare.gov, which measures member experience, medical care, and plan administration, was just 2 stars. And the company’s NCQA rating for member experience was 2.75 out of 5 stars, which is lower than many competitors.

Best for Premium Tax Credits : Aetna


Aetna logo

Aetna

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offers plans eligible for the maximum premium tax credit

  • Offers no- or low-cost MinuteClinic services

  • 24/7 virtual care available as low as $0

Cons
  • Does not offer dental coverage

  • Plan costs are higher than average

  • ACA plans not available nationwide

Why We Chose It

Because Aetna's plans only include the essential health benefits (EHBs) outlined by the ACA, the company's plans are all eligible for the maximum premium reduction available from the premium tax credit. For example, if you earn less than 150% of the FPL and purchase a Silver plan from Aetna in 2023, your required contribution could be $0. Busy contractors will also appreciate the no- or low-cost virtual care and MinuteClinic services included with Aetna’s plans. Your local MinuteClinic offers convenient hours, and you can book an appointment online for a variety of services. You may even be able to get a prescription and pick it up on-site. 

Aetna offers HMO, PPO, and EPO plans, and provides a variety of medical management programs for different conditions. The company’s average NCQA rating is 3.4 out of 5 stars, which is better than average. And Aetna also received an A (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best, which highlights the company’s excellent ability to pay claims. However, people who don’t qualify for the premium tax credit may not find Aetna’s plans to be the best value, since Aetna’s premiums and deductibles may be higher than the competition (costs vary by region). 

Best Value Gold Plans : Blue Cross Blue Shield


Blue Cross Blue Shield logo

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offers the best value Gold plans of the insurers reviewed

  • Low premiums on Bronze plans

  • Child and adult dental coverage available

  • 3.7-star average NCQA rating

Cons
  • Poor J.D. Power ratings in some regions

Why We Chose It

For individuals with more extensive health needs, Blue Cross Blue Shield may be the best option. BCBS had the lowest-cost Gold plans of all the insurers we reviewed (premiums were not the lowest, but deductibles were). The insurer also has low premiums on Bronze plans (but high deductibles). And plans are generally very highly rated. BCBS is also our top-ranked provider for the best health insurance companies. Outside of traditional health insurance plans, BCBS offers short-term coverage and global health insurance for contractors and individuals traveling overseas. 

Since BCBS is a group of companies, member experience varies by region. For example, it’s the top-rated carrier in the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study for the Illinois and Indiana region, but is ranked last in California. Certain BCBS organizations also offer more benefits than others, such as health and wellness discounts or $0 virtual care. It’s important to research the Blue Cross Blue Shield organization in your state before enrolling.

Cheapest Bronze and Silver Plans : Molina Healthcare


Molina Healthcare logo

Molina Healthcare

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Best pricing for bronze and silver plans

  • Most plans include $0 virtual care

Cons
  • Poor third-party ratings

  • Doesn’t offer dental coverage

Why We Chose It

For independent contractors looking for the cheapest possible plan, Molina Bronze and Silver plans have the lowest premiums and deductibles, on average, of all the major insurers and many smaller regional ones. The company offers ACA plans in 14 states. In most states, plans include 24/7 telehealth visits through Teladoc at no cost to you. Molina offers a convenient mobile app as well, which allows you to view your records, talk to a nurse, and more. 

Though you’ll likely find the cheapest plans from Molina, third-party ratings for the company are among the lowest of the carriers we reviewed. For example, Molina has an average 2-star NCQA rating and a 2-star rating on Healthcare.gov. The company also has the fewest health management programs of the insurers we reviewed and dental coverage is not available.

Final Verdict

The best health insurance provider for you will depend on your healthcare needs and income. If you qualify for the premium tax credit, you’ll see your costs slashed across providers. But you can count on Aetna to provide the maximum reduction in your premiums. Oscar is another option for affordable plans and offers a feature-packed mobile app. If you’re looking for the cheapest Gold plan or a plan with dental coverage, consider Blue Cross Blue Shield. And if you don’t qualify for the tax credit, but need an ultra-affordable plan for occasional medical needs, Molina will likely be the cheapest.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Health Insurance Marketplace?

The Health Insurance Marketplace is a service run by the federal government that helps people compare and enroll in health insurance plans. You can use the Marketplace to determine your eligibility for Medicaid or premium tax credits. Note that many states have their own marketplace, including California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, New Mexico, Idaho, and Kentucky. You can find out which marketplace to use by entering your ZIP code at Healthcare.gov.

How Much Is Health Insurance?

Your health insurance premium depends on several factors, including your age, your location, whether you smoke, the metal level you choose, if you’re enrolling only yourself or your family, and whether you qualify for the premium tax credit. If you don’t qualify, it’s essential to search for affordable health insurance coverage. If you’re eligible for premium tax credits, you could see your premium reduced to $0.

  • Your age: The older you are, the more you’ll generally pay for health insurance. 
  • Your location: Local regulations, competition, and cost-of-living all affect premiums in your area. 
  • Tobacco use: Smokers may pay up to 50% more for health insurance. 
  • Metal level: Bronze and Silver plans have cheaper premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs, while Gold and Platinum plans have higher premiums and lower costs when you need care. For example, the lowest Bronze premium quote we received in Florida was $282 for a 25-year-old individual, while the lowest Gold premium was $381 (both full-cost plans without tax credits).
  • Individual or family: You’ll pay more for family enrollment than you would for an individual plan. 
  • Eligibility for premium tax credit: Depending on your income, location, and the plan you choose, you could have a $0 premium after the premium tax credit is applied.

What Is an HSA?

A health savings account lets you stash away money to use on qualified healthcare expenses. You don’t have to pay taxes on the money you deposit into an HSA, but you can’t use it to pay premiums. To open an HSA, you must have a high-deductible health plan. The deductible can’t be less than $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family.

What Is the Premium Tax Credit?

When you enroll in a Marketplace plan, you may qualify for a premium tax credit based on your income, which helps to reduce your premium amount on a sliding scale. You’re eligible if you earn between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). For 2023 plans, you may qualify even if your income exceeds that amount. You can use any or all of the tax credit in advance to help pay for your premiums.

Methodology

We compared the largest nationwide providers and considered criteria in the following categories to determine the best health insurance companies for 2023.

  • Customer satisfaction: We used NCQA ratings, primarily, and healthcare.gov ratings, secondarily, to measure this criteria. 
  • State availability: This measure indicates how widely available plans are across the U.S.
  • Plan features: For each company, we researched whether it offered the following:
  • Types of plans: HMO, PPO, EPO, POS, and other plan types
  • Plan benefits: Programs to help manage asthma, heart disease, depression, diabetes, pain, high cholesterol and blood pressure, pregnancy, low back pain, and weight loss
  • Dental coverage: Coverage for child dental, adult dental, both, or neither
  • Metal levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans, and catastrophic coverage
  • Cost to value: We compared physician copays, specialist copays, monthly premiums, and deductibles for bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and catastrophic plans across different age groups across two ZIP codes, representing the highest enrollment in ACA plans by state.
  • Premium tax credit reduction: We researched and compared the percentage of plan premiums eligible for reduction by the premium tax credit.
Health Insurance for Self-Employed
Article Sources
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  1. J.D. Power. “2022 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study.”