Affordable health insurance once seemed like a pipe dream, yet the passage of the Affordable Care Act changed that for many Americans. Thanks to the sweeping healthcare reform, which was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010, households with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) became eligible for subsidies to bring health insurance premiums within reach. Further, the Medicaid program for low-income individuals was expanded upward to include all adults with an income below 138% of the federal poverty level.
Still, there are challenges for some Americans when it comes to finding affordable health insurance premiums—especially for those at the higher end of the subsidy range and beyond. Because of the way the ACA was imagined, health insurance premiums can vary widely based on where you live, how much money you earn, and the size of your family.
Regardless of where you fall within those metrics, the best way to find affordable health insurance is to shop around among several different providers and compare plans based on what they offer, your monthly premiums, your annual out-of-pocket costs, and other details. Investopedia compared some of the top providers in this space to find the best affordable health insurance companies out there today.
The Best Affordable Health Insurance Companies for 2021
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Best for Remote Workers
Best for Short-Term Coverage
Best for Health Savings Plan (HSA) Option
Best Employee Coverage
Best for Convenience
Best for Medicare Advantage and MediGap Plans
Best for Remote Workers : Blue Cross Blue Shield
Blue Cross Blue Shield made our ranking due to their healthcare options for individuals who work remotely and need to buy coverage on their own. This includes the option to buy coverage that works in all 50 states, as well as global health insurance for short-term or long-term travel.
Long company history and strong reputation
Global coverage available
Widely accepted by doctors and specialists
There are plenty of negative user reviews online across both Consumer Affairs and Trustpilot
Blue Cross Blue Shield was originally founded in 1929 and has since expanded to offer high-quality health insurance coverage across the United States. The company offers coverage to 76 of America's Fortune 100 companies, 6.9 million people who work for small employers, 17 million unionized workers, and millions of others. Ultimately, however, we chose Blue Cross Blue Shield for our ranking due to its options for remote workers, including health insurance that works across the country or even worldwide.
Blue Cross Blue Shield lets you buy health insurance coverage that works in all 50 states, and it's widely accepted by doctors and specialists nationwide. They also offer coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, which means eligible customers can get subsidies to make their health insurance premiums affordable. You can even buy worldwide health insurance coverage that works for short-term or long-term travel—both real possibilities if you can work from home or anywhere in the world.
Best for Short-Term Coverage : UnitedHealthcare
We Chose UnitedHealthcare for our ranking based on the fact they offer short-term health insurance coverage when you need it. This type of plan can work well if you're in between employer-based plans or you need temporary coverage for any reason.
Long company history
Short-term health insurance available
Offers ACA-compliant plans
Below average ratings in almost all regions in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study
Some short-term plans are not available in every state
UnitedHealthcare was originally founded in 1977, yet it has grown tremendously since then and now serves more than 70 million customers. This provider also works directly with more than 1.3 million physicians and healthcare providers, as well as 6,500 hospitals and medical centers around the United States. We chose UnitedHealthcare for our ranking based on their short-term health insurance options, which help consumers bridge gaps when they're in between plans.
Short-term insurance from UnitedHealthcare can be a good choice if you missed open enrollment for the ACA, you're waiting for coverage to start, or you're in between jobs. You can get covered as soon as the day after you apply, and you can pick your length of coverage as well as your deductible. You also have the option to drop your short-term coverage with no penalty if a long-term insurance option comes along.
Finally, it's important to know that short-term health insurance plans from UnitedHealthcare are underwritten by Golden Rule Insurance Company, which has an A rating from AM Best for financial strength.
Best for Health Savings Plan (HSA) Option : Kaiser Permanente
We chose Kaiser Permanente due to the fact it administers its own Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which can help you save for health costs on a tax-advantaged basis.
Kaiser offers its own HSA
ACA-compliant plans available for individuals and families
Several top ratings in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study
Coverage only available in eight states and Washington D.C.
Kaiser began offering health insurance plans to the public starting in 1945 and has grown to become one of the largest not-for-profit health insurance providers in the nation. Kaiser serves more than 12.5 million members in eight states plus Washington D.C. We chose this provider due to the fact they offer their own Health Savings Account (HSA) option, which lets you save money for health expenses if you have an eligible plan.
When you pair a high deductible health plan (HDHP) from Kaiser Permanente with a Health Savings Account (HSA), you get a convenient debit card that lets you cover eligible expenses with your HSA funds directly and without any added paperwork. Your HSA plan also comes with no hidden fees, and you can get the $3.25 monthly plan fee waived if you maintain an HSA balance of $2,000 or more.
Also be aware that Kaiser may offer ACA-compliant plans in your area, so it's possible you could apply subsidies you receive to make your premiums more affordable.
Best Employee Coverage : Cigna
We chose Cigna as best coverage for employees due to plan features that you may be eligible for. Stand-out benefits include $0 annual check-ups, 24/7 health line access, and a mobile app.
$0 annual checkups
Talk to a nurse 24/7
Multiple coverage types available
Several top ratings in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study
ACA-compliant individual and family plans only available in 13 states
Cigna was originally founded in 1792, which makes it one of the longest running insurance companies in the world. While Cigna coverage areas are limited nationwide, we chose them for our ranking based on the special benefits they offer individuals as well as their employee plans.
Cigna customers enjoy perks like $0 annual checkups and a 24/7 healthline that lets you call in and get medical questions answered by a nurse. The myCigna app can also help you keep track of your medical care and your medical bills, as well as your overall healthcare goals.
A variety of plans are available for employers who select this option, including ones that include dental, vision, pharmacy, and health and wellness coverage. While employee plans are available, Cigna has also expanded its ACA-compliant offerings to serve 13 states in 2022.
Best for Convenience : Oscar
We chose Oscar as best for convenience due to the fact fit offers a mobile app and myriad ways to save time and money on healthcare via phone or video chat.
Digital healthcare experience
Talk to a doctor for $0
ACA-compliant plans available in eligible coverage areas
Shorter company history than most competitors
Plans only offered in 22 states
Fewer ratings and reviews to compare
Oscar was only founded in 2012, so this technologically-driven healthcare company does not have the long history some of its competitors do. Still, in 2021 they served more than 560,000 members in 497 counties across 19 states. They will further expand to 22 total states in 2022. This means their coverage area is still limited, but you may still find value in their policies if you live in one of their coverage areas. Ultimately, we chose Oscar for our ranking based on their digital healthcare experience which keeps everything convenient through a mobile app and the ability to book healthcare appointments via phone or video.
Oscar makes it easy for customers to maintain a digital ID card, book appointments, and find in-network providers using their mobile app. You can take care of tasks like prescription renewals and preventative care over the phone or via video chat. With Oscar’s Virtual Urgent Care and Virtual Primary Care, you can also book unlimited virtual visits for $0.
Also be aware that, depending on where you live, you may be able to buy an ACA-compliant plan through Oscar that is made more affordable thanks to healthcare subsidies. You can check healthcare.gov during open enrollment to see coverage options in your area.
Best for Medicare Advantage and MediGap Plans : Humana
We chose Humana due to its many Medicare Advantage plans options, which can make sense for Medicare members who want additional coverage.
Some plans offer benefits not required by Medicare Part A or Part B
All Medicare Advantage plans include a list of covered benefits
A couple of above average plans in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study
Some plans not offered in all states
Humana no longer offers traditional individual health insurance coverage
Humana was originally founded as a nursing home company in 1961, yet it evolved over time to become one of the larger health insurance providers in the United States. We chose them for our ranking based on their generous coverage options for Medicare Advantage and MediGap customers.
Medicare Advantage plans from Humana come in many different forms, including HMO plans, PPO plans, PPFS plans, and SNP plans. While coverage options vary, each of their Medicare Advantage options includes basic benefits like coverage for hospital stays and emergency transportation, telehealth visits, preventative care and specialist visits, medical supplies and equipment, and outpatient care and procedures. You also get coverage for lab work, X-rays, screening, and imaging.
Meanwhile, Humana is also well known for its Medicare Supplement plans, which are frequently referred to as Humana MediGap plans. These plans are different from Medicare Advantage plans and they are offered in most states. Like Medicare Advantage, MediGap plans can help fill in the gaps traditional Medicare coverage leaves.
Though these companies we profiled could be the most affordable health insurance companies available, keep in mind that your premiums may cost more or less depending on where you live, the size of your family, and whether or not you are eligible for subsidies on plans offered by your state exchange or Healthcare.gov.
Regardless of your situation, you can save money on health insurance premiums by shopping around and comparing at least a few different providers who offer plans in your area. The companies we profiled could suit your budget and benefits needed, whether you're a remote worker, you crave convenience, or you're looking for a provider who also offers alternative ways to save.
|Company||Wins For||Key Benefits|
|Blue Cross Blue Shield||Remote Workers||Coverage for all 50 states available, as well as international plans|
|UnitedHealthcare||Short-Term Coverage||Plans available for the short-term, which can fill the gaps in between jobs|
|Kaiser Permanente||Health Savings Plan (HSA) option||HSA plan with debit card|
|Cigna||Employee Coverage||$0 annual checkups and 24/7 nurse hotline|
|Oscar||Convenience||Telehealth options and mobile app|
|Humana||Medicare Advantage and MediGap Plans||Supplemental plans for Medicare members|
How Can I Get Affordable Health Insurance?
One of the best strategies to save on health insurance is to shop around and compare plans. Meanwhile, check whether you're eligible for ACA subsidies, which can make your health insurance plan more affordable if you earn between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level based on your family size. In 2021, 100% of the FPL for a family of four works out to $26,500, and 400% of the FPL works out to $106,000, so subsidies may be available to families with incomes in that range.
Can I Buy Affordable Health Insurance at Any Time?
You may be able to buy short-term health insurance coverage at any time, but plans offered in conjunction with the ACA can only be purchased during open enrollment unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. Special enrollment periods can include any time you add a member to your family, move to a new coverage area, or experience another eligible life event.
MediGap coverage also has its own open enrollment period that starts during the month you first turn 65 and lasts for six months provided you are already enrolled in Medicare Part B. You may not be able to buy MediGap coverage after this time, or you may have to pay more for coverage.
How Do I Choose the Best Affordable Health Insurance Company?
Start the process by figuring out which of the best affordable health insurance companies offer plans in your area. From there, check if you are eligible for subsidies on ACA plans, and compare providers based on their networks, plan deductibles and copays, and included benefits. While you should look for a health insurance plan with an annual deductible and out-of-pocket maximum that makes sense with your finances, also ensure that the monthly premiums can fit within your budget.
Is It Worth It to Use a Private Health Insurance Company?
Saving on the costs of rising medical care is important. Getting private insurance does just this. Trying to get that private insurance to be affordable requires meeting the ACA income guidelines.
How We Chose the Best Affordable Health Insurance Companies
Investopedia compared 10 of the top health insurance providers in the United States to find the best affordable options for different kinds of needs. We looked for companies that have strong financial ratings, as well as those that rank well for customer service and other factors with J.D. Power. We also gave preference to affordable health insurance companies that offer ACA-compliant plans, since consumers can use subsidies to reduce their monthly premium cost.