If you're a novice in the health insurance industry in the United States, you'll soon realize it's not cheap. But for many beginners, the cost isn't the only problem when looking for free health insurance. The system is also very complex, with multiple points of entry.
However, because you stand a chance to get free health insurance from many different sources, it challenging to know where to start your search.
Examples of sources include:
- The government
- Your job or university
- A private insurance company
It's not always clear where you should start looking when shopping for low-cost health insurance.
There is one thing you need to understand before we look at the options for low-cost or free health insurance: health insurance is never100% free and will usually cost you something. Free health insurance means one of two things.
Either it is heavily subsidized, in which case, you don't pay the full amount of the monthly premiums yourself. Or, some of your health benefits under comprehensive health insurance won't be available for you. This kind of coverage is less robust.
Medicaid is a social welfare program that provides low-come people with comprehensive government-based health insurance. Medicaid is free health insurance for those who qualify. Often time, you won't need to pay any monthly premiums, neither is there cost-sharing in the form of deductibles or copayments.
Every individual state has slightly different Medicaid regulations. However, you must meet low- income requirements. In many states, your income has to be 138 percent or less of the federal poverty level to qualify for Medicaid. However, the eligibility criteria for some states are stronger. In which case, beneficiaries must members of a medically vulnerable group like an elderly person, a child, disable, blind, or pregnant. In addition to these, there are other low-income guidelines you have to meet.
Short-Term Health Insurance
Comprehensive health plans are usually more expensive than short-term health insurance. Though this isn't exactly a free health insurance plan, it's the best option for people interested in short-term coverage. Short-term plans usually cover up to six months. You won't be able to renew them.
In some states, it's possible to buy another 6-month short-term policy right away. After the expiry of the first, making a total of one-year coverage. Other states, prohibit this kind of back- to-back short-term health insurance plans, the limit is such states is six months of coverage.
Although short-term health insurance seems attractive at first glance, it doesn't qualify for comprehensive health insurance benefits. Because, it doesn't meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Nevertheless, it is a low-cost health insurance option. Remember, it can't help you avoid the tax penalty for being uninsured.
Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act offers government subsidies to make health insurance less expensive for low-income earners to buy. It aims to health insurance more accessible and affordable to people within the low-income bracket.
If your income falls between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, you may be eligible for the premium tax credit subsidy. In this case, the government covers part of your monthly health insurance premium, and you take care of the rest.
Job-Based Health Plan
Many employers in the United States include health insurance subsidies in the compensation package for their employees and their employees' families. This is very common among full-time employees in large companies. But you aren't likely to see this among part-time employees or employees of small businesses.
It works like this. When you land a job that provides free health insurance benefits, your employer expects you to sign up within a limited period. You'll have to till the following open enrollment period if you fail to sign up before the deadline.
Spouse's Health Plan
You can be eligible for your spouse's job-based health plan if he/she has this health insurance coverage. It is common for employers to extend the offer of job-based health insurance to cover employees' children, stepchildren, and spouses. To enjoy this free health insurance, sign up before the deadline of the enrollment period.
Which is immediately when your spouse becomes an employee of the company. However, should you fail to register in time, another opportunity will present itself during each annual open enrollment period.