The federal government offers cheap and affordable health insurance to certain vulnerable populations. Some individuals may even qualify for free health care if they meet certain criteria. If you cannot pay for health insurance or are experiencing financial hardship, you may qualify for government-sponsored health care.
Medicaid is one of the largest federal health insurance programs in the country. More than 80 million people are covered by this health care plan, including eligible children, low-income families, pregnant women, individuals with certain medical conditions and seniors.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state insurance plan, which means that there are certain eligibility requirements determined by the federal government as well as state-mandated requirements.
States can choose how they want to administer Medicaid. In states that have expanded the program, more people are eligible for coverage because they can qualify based on their income alone (up to 133% of the federal poverty level).
Currently, only 12 states have not expanded Medicaid, which are:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
You can apply for Medicaid anytime throughout the year – you do not need to wait for an Open Enrollment Period. To apply for coverage, complete an online application on the Health Insurance Marketplace or contact your state’s Medicaid agency.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offers cheap health insurance for low-income children younger than 19 years of age who do not otherwise qualify for Medicaid. In some states, pregnant women may also be covered under CHIP. Like Medicaid, you can apply for coverage anytime throughout the year through the Marketplace.
Medicare is another low-cost health insurance plan from the federal government. All U.S. citizens become eligible for Medicare around their 65th birthday. Certain individuals may qualify earlier, such as younger people with disabilities and people with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
Medicare has two primary parts: Part A and Part B. Together, they are known as “Original Medicare” and provide the most basic forms of coverages, such as hospitalizations, preventive services and medically necessary services.
Those looking for more robust low-cost health insurance can purchase a Medicare Part C plan, also known as a Medicare Advantage Plan, from an approved insurance provider. These plans cover all the Part A and Part B services and typically provide additional coverage for things like vision, hearing and dental.
Prescription drug coverage is available in Medicare Part D plans, which are sold by private companies authorized by Medicare.
Most older adults can get cheap health insurance through Medicare because they are exempt from Part A premiums. This is because they paid Medicare taxes long enough while working, generally for at least 10 years. Those who do not qualify for premium-free Part A may be able to purchase it; 2022 premiums are between $274 or $499 per month.