Health insurance can be expensive, with most policies averaging nearly $1,000 per month. Even though it can use a good portion of your budget, health insurance is a valuable way to offset the cost of preventive care, expensive health conditions and catastrophic injuries. We compared the best health insurance companies and quotes to find the cheapest health insurance plans. We’ll also provide tips to help you shop for cheap medical insurance.
Why trust our insurance experts
Our team of insurance experts evaluates hundreds of insurance products and analyzes thousands of data points to help you find the best product for your situation. We use a data-driven methodology to determine each rating. Advertisers do not influence our editorial content. You can read more about our methodology below.
- 129 health insurance companies analyzed.
- 864 health insurance plan rates reviewed.
- 5 levels of fact-checking.
Best affordable health insurance companies of 2023
Compare the best cheap health insurance companies
We analyzed the average rates of Bronze health insurance plans offered by the best health insurance companies across the nation. Those with the cheapest average cost made our rating of the best and most affordable insurance companies.
To first determine the best health insurance companies, we compared providers that sell individual health insurance plans. Each health insurance company was eligible for up to 100 points, based on its performance in the following key categories:
- Cost (30 points). Health insurance companies with the lowest average monthly premium and deductible for Silver tier health insurance plans received the highest score.
- Consumer complaints (25 points). Health insurance companies with the lowest levels of complaints received the highest score. We collected complaint data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which shows the volume of health insurance consumer complaints against each company.
- NCQA quality rating (25 points). Health insurance companies with the highest quality ratings received the highest score. We collected data from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits health plans and produces ratings based on specific metrics.
- Variety of health insurance plans (10 points). Health insurance companies with the greatest variety of health insurance plans (HMO, EPO, PPO) received the highest score.
- Metal tier offerings (10 points). Health insurance companies with the most options of metal tier plans received the highest score.
How to get affordable health insurance
The best way to get the cheapest health insurance is through your workplace. Many employers offer group health insurance to their employees and families. Group health insurance is cheaper than getting individual health insurance, and most employers pay a portion of the health insurance premium, making your cost more affordable.
If you can’t get coverage through your workplace, the Health Insurance Marketplace may offer low-cost health insurance. There are usually several Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant health plans in your area, and the website can help you choose one.
You might be eligible for even cheaper health insurance through Marketplace subsidies if your household income is at or lower than 400% of the federal poverty level for your household size.
Medicaid may be another option if you have a low income. This health insurance program can offer you comprehensive health insurance coverage at little or no cost.
Another option is going directly to a health insurance company. Plans may not be ACA-compliant, however. It’s worth reviewing and comparing the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) for each plan to determine which will best fit your needs.
How much does health insurance cost?
Health insurance costs an average of $974 a month for a Bronze plan (the lowest level plan) on the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace, which is where you can buy a health insurance plan via Healthcare.gov. The monthly average cost increases to $1,269 for a Silver plan, $1,383 for a Gold plan and $1,724 for a Platinum plan.
There are several factors that affect how much you’ll pay for health insurance, including:
- Your age and the ages of your dependents.
- The health insurance plan copays, deductibles, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums.
- The health insurance coverage and metal tier you choose.
- The health insurance company and plan you choose.
- The type of health insurance policy (EPO, HMO, PPO, etc.) you buy.
The more the health insurance company covers, the more you’ll pay in health insurance premiums. If you choose a higher health insurance deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, you could save on your premium. Just be prepared to pay more out of pocket for your health care in exchange for that lower premium.
Average cost of health insurance by age
Average monthly cost based on unsubsidized ACA plans. Source: Healthcare.gov.
If you’re shopping for cheap health insurance, there are multiple things to consider, including the plan type, tax credits and coverage choices. We break down the most important factors to consider when comparing quotes to find cheap medical insurance.
Of all the metal tiers, Bronze plans have the lowest premiums, though you’ll pay the most for your health care costs. With a typical Bronze plan, the insurance company pays 60% of covered expenses, while you pay 40%. Expect deductibles for Bronze plans to be thousands of dollars per year.
This plan is best for someone who wants health insurance coverage for severe injuries or illnesses but can afford to pay for preventive and routine care out of pocket.
Health insurance companies usually pay around 70% of health care costs on a Silver plan, while you pay 30%. This metal plan offers lower deductibles than Bronze plans but has a higher monthly premium costs. Still, Silver plan deductibles can still be in the thousands.
“If you qualify for a subsidy and reduced cost-sharing, Silver plans may be the most affordable option for you,” said Evan Tunis, president of Florida Healthcare Insurance.
If you don’t qualify for a subsidy but are willing to pay a slightly higher premium to cover more routine care, consider a Silver plan.
A Gold plan might be worth the cost if you go to the doctor regularly or have high health care costs. Although it has higher premiums than Bronze and Silver plans, your deductible is lower and the insurance company pays about 80% of your cost of care.
The metal tier plan with the highest cost is the Platinum plan, but it comes with the lowest deductible. Nearly all your health care costs will be covered, as the health insurance company generally pays around 90% of your covered expenses.
Tax credits for affordable health insurance
Some people qualify for a premium tax credit, which can unlock cheap medical insurance. When you apply for health insurance on the health exchange, you’ll enter your estimated income on the application. You could receive a tax credit depending on your income and household size. You can find out if your estimated income qualifies for a subsidy on the Marketplace website.
“If your income or household makeup changes during the year, you’ll want to update your application to see if it affects your credit,” said Tunis.
Gaining a household member or losing an income could increase your credit. Losing a household member or increasing your income could lower it. Taking more of a tax credit than you’re eligible for could mean you have to pay some of it back when filing your federal tax return.
HSA vs. FSA
HSAs and FSAs are two tax-advantaged savings vehicles you can use to pay for health care expenses.
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is available if you buy a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a minimum deductible of $1,500 for an individual or $3,000 for a family plan.
If you’re considering an HSA, check to see if the Marketplace plan has an “HSA eligible” label.
You can make pre-tax contributions and use the funds to pay for qualified medical expenses and costs to meet your deductible.
The HSA will also accrue interest, and the balance rolls over yearly. You can keep the HSA no matter your employment status and it acts like a retirement account once you turn 65. If you withdraw funds before 65 for non-medical purposes, they will be taxable.
A Flexible Savings Account (FSA) is an employee benefit some employers offer on employer-sponsored group health insurance plans. A predetermined amount of money is set aside pre-tax, which can be used for health care expenses and eligible dependent care.
Going “out of network” means seeing a health provider not contracted with your health insurance company or plan. If you go out of network to see a doctor, you’ll usually pay a higher coinsurance amount — the percentage you pay for covered services after you’ve met your deductible — than you would to see an in-network doctor.
“Knowing your out-of-network coverage can help you save money in the long run, especially for those who travel frequently or live near a state border,” said Tunis.
Out-of-network coverage can vary depending on the type of health insurance plan you buy. For example, if you have a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan, your insurance might not cover out-of-network care unless it’s an emergency.
If you like your doctor or specialist and want to keep going to them, make sure they’re in network for the health insurance plan you’re considering.
Your out-of-pocket maximum is the most you’ll pay toward covered health care for your plan year. Once you’ve paid your deductibles, coinsurance and copayments and have met your annual out-of-pocket limit, your plan will pay 100% for covered expenses.
The following expenses do not go towards your out-of-pocket maximum:
- Health insurance premiums.
- Out-of-network expenses.
- Costs your provider charges above the allowed amount.
- Cost of services not covered.
The 2023 out-of-pocket limit varies for Marketplace plans but cannot exceed $9,100 for individuals and $18,200 for family coverage.
How to find the best affordable health insurance for your needs
Comparing health insurance quotes can be overwhelming, but these tips can help you find the best cheap health insurance plan for you.
- Consider your health care needs. If you don’t anticipate going to the doctor much, you could save by choosing an HDHP. But a Gold or Platinum plan may be worth it if you have chronic health conditions or expect to see the doctor regularly.
- Which plan type is best? An exclusive provider organization (EPO) plan only covers in-network care. A health management organization (HMO) plan will cover out-of-network care, but only for urgent or emergency care. A preferred provider organization (PPO) plan will cover out-of-network care without a referral for an additional cost.
- Check for pharmacy benefits. A formulary, or drug list, is a list of prescription drugs your insurance will cover and what category and cost a particular drug falls under. Todd Ackerman, president of World Insurance Associates, advises considering, “With prescription drug costs rising like they are, what are your prescription costs, and where do your prescriptions fall in the formulary on the plan you’re moving to?”
- Ask your healthcare providers what insurance plans they accept. Before you buy a health plan, call your doctor to make sure they take the specific plan. The health insurance company’s online directory could be out-of-date or not accurate.
- Verify the health plan cost. The cost isn’t just the premium. You should also consider the coinsurance, copay, deductible and out-of-pocket maximum.
- Are there other options? You might be able to get health insurance through your employer or get added to your spouse’s or parent’s plan. These options may be cheaper than getting an individual health insurance plan.
Best and most affordable health insurance FAQs
Kaiser Permanente has the best cheap health insurance, according to our analysis. But it is only available to members in eight states and Washington, D.C. The next best options are Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, which offer health insurance in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
The cheapest health insurance for you may vary because the age of all household members and income factor into health insurance costs. Bronze and catastrophic plans offer the least coverage but have cheaper rates. Choosing a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) can also make health insurance more affordable.
The least expensive way to get the best health insurance depends on your income level.
- If you qualify for Medicaid or Marketplace subsidies, you could pay little to no cost for health insurance.
- If you don’t, a catastrophic or high-deductible health plan (HDHP) can be less expensive than other Marketplace plans.
The more health care costs an insurer pays, the more you’ll pay in health insurance premiums.
Medicaid is a government-based health insurance program for low-income people and is usually the least expensive. With a low income, you may not have any premium costs with Medicaid and minimal cost-sharing.
Qualifying for a subsidy through the Health Insurance Marketplace can lower your health insurance premium and cost-sharing, sometimes down to $0.
Short-term health insurance plans, employer-based health insurance or catastrophic plans may be the cheapest options if you don’t qualify for Medicaid or subsidies.