If you're looking for affordable private health insurance, which company should you choose? The best source of affordable coverage is often one of the plans available on the Health Insurance Marketplace through the Affordable Care Act. This is especially true if you qualify for a subsidy that lowers your monthly charges. And, depending on where you live and which level of plan you want, you may have a number of choices to consider.
For the first time, quality star ratings are now available for many of the health insurance plans sold through healthcare.gov. The five-star scales are based on three elements: surveys of member experience, clinical measures such as preventive screenings, and plan administration (including customer service).
President Biden recently signed an executive order reopening enrollment for health insurance policies available through ACA exchanges. Enrollment had previous ended on December 15, 2020, and the reopened enrollment period will extend from February 15 until May 15, 2021.
While coverage and cost issues remain paramount when choosing a health insurance plan, the star ratings add an indication of the quality for the plans sold on the federal and state exchanges.
- Many health insurance plans sold on healthcare.gov now have star ratings that reflect member experience surveys, clinical measures, and plan administration.
- Roughly 80% of the plans in the federal marketplace earned three stars or more, but eight states had no plans with at least three-star ratings.
- Kaiser and Blue Cross Blue Shield were among the best-rated insurance companies.
- If your circumstance have changed, resulting in a loss of health insurance, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period at healthcare.gov.
- Other tips for finding affordable health insurance include considering Medicaid, seeing if you qualify for subsidies, getting quotes directly from insurers, and using a short-term plan as a bridge.
Which Plans Rated Best
Overall, about 80% of the plans in the federal marketplace earned three stars or more, with only 1% earning five stars. However, eight states on the federal marketplace didn’t have any health plans that earned at least three stars: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Kaiser and Blue Cross Blue Shield were among the best-rated insurance companies.
Kaiser Foundation Health Plans were the only ones to win five-star ratings on the federal exchange, ranking highest for 24 of its plans in Virginia, 34 in Georgia, and 11 in Hawaii. Kaiser Permanente also earned five stars on the California state exchange. It garnered four stars on the Colorado and D.C. state exchanges, though the number of plans is not available.
Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, sold under many different “blue” names, had a number of four-star plans on the federal exchange: 24 in Florida; 25 in Michigan; 4 in Pennsylvania; and 4 in Virginia. And Harvard Pilgrim Health Care had 4 four-star plans in Maine and four in New Hampshire. The Blues also garnered five stars in Massachusetts and Vermont state exchanges, and four stars in D.C. and Vermont (again, the number of plans was not available).
Overall star ratings have not been released from the other states that have their own Affordable Care Act exchanges—Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington. But local star ratings can be obtained by residents who enter their zip code.
Highest-Rated Companies on the Federal Exchange
|STATE||COMPANY||Overall Star Rating
(1-5 stars/5 is highest rating)
|Number of High-Rated Plans|
|Florida||Blue Cross Blue
Shield of FL, Inc.
|Health First, Inc.||4||44|
|Georgia||Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia, Inc.||4||34|
|Hawaii||Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.||4||11|
|Louisiana||Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Company||4||5|
|Vantage Health Plan||4||6|
|Maine||Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Inc.||4||9|
|Michigan||Blue Care Network of Michigan||4||16|
|Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Mutual Insurance Company||4||9|
|Physician Health Plan||4||18|
|New Hampshire||Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of NE||4||9|
|Celtic Insurance Company||4||7|
|North Dakota||Sanford Health Plan||4||8|
|Oregon||Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Northwest||4||10|
|Providence Health Plan||4||11|
|Pennsylvania||Geisinger Health Plan||4||64|
|Independence Blue Cross (QCC Ins. Co.)||4||5|
|South Dakota||Avera Health Plans, Inc.||4||7|
|Sanford Health Plan||4||16|
|Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc.||5||23|
|Wisconsin||Childrens Community Health Plan||4||7|
|Dean Health Plan||4||40|
|Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin||4||27|
|HealthPartners Insurance Company||4||6|
|Network Health Health Plan||4||18|
|Unity Health Plans Insurance Corporation||4||57|
The Affordable Care Act remains robust, despite court challenges and budget cuts for publicity. Overall sign-ups for 2020 dipped only slightly to 8.3 million from 8.4 the year before, and in some states enrollment has actually gone up. Florida, Texas, and North Carolina had the highest number of enrollees.
Rates for plans sold at healthcare.gov decreased by almost 3% for 2020. Average cost for a bronze plan, before tax credits, for a 40-year-old-man was $331 a month in 2020, compared to $340 a month in 2019; a 2020 silver plan premium averaged $442 a month, and the lowest-cost gold premium averaged $501 a month.
What Makes a Health Insurance Company Affordable?
Health insurance doesn’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach. What one person deems affordable health insurance, another may find expensive. Unless the policy is completely free, it’s always a good idea to shop around and compare affordable health insurance options. Before you decide which policy to choose, consider things like monthly payments, deductibles, what is covered and what isn’t, and what happens when a provider is out of your coverage range.
It's possible for someone to buy health insurance directly from an insurance company at any time.
How Does Affordable Health Insurance Work?
There are different types of affordable health insurance options that work in various ways. For example, you may be eligible for Medicaid, a state-funded program that has its own coverage guidelines. This option can be pretty comprehensive and is based partly on income. On the other hand, you may not qualify for Medicaid, but for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This can help reduce your premium costs.
Other affordable health insurance options include choosing plans directly from insurance providers, a bridge policy for short-term needs, or coverage during the open enrollment period.
How Much Does Affordable Health Insurance Cost?
Affordable health care costs vary greatly depending on where you live, the type of plan you choose, or if you’re receiving coverage through an employer, the government, or on your own. Other factors such as the type and scope of coverage also affect your health care costs. Some affordable health care like Medicaid is free or low cost and other health insurance may cost an average of $331 to $501 per person per month.
Is Affordable Health Insurance Worth the Cost?
Affordable health care is absolutely worth the cost. If you qualify for Medicaid or a subsidy, that would most likely be the most affordable option. Even if you don’t qualify for one of these, affordable health care is still worth it. The costs of monthly premiums are usually much less than paying for medical expenses out of pocket if you’re uninsured.
How We Chose the Best Affordable Health Insurance Companies
We chose the best affordable health insurance companies after researching the available options and reviewing them before deciding on our top picks. The ones that we chose as our best affordable health insurance companies were chosen based on their coverage, costs, ratings, and availability.
KFF.org. "How ACA Marketplace Premiums Are Changing by County in 2020." Accessed Jan. 22, 2020