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Your guide to buying affordable health insurance

Learn how ACA's subsidies could lower your premiums.

If you’re shopping for individual health insurance because you’re self-employed, working for a small business – or because you’ve recently become unemployed and lost coverage – it’s a great time for you to become familiar with individual health coverage options available to you.

Find health insurance with lower premiums

Right now, more Americans than ever are finding ACA-compliant comprehensive coverage with low premiums – and in some cases no premiums – thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The ARP, signed into law in 2021, included subsidy enhancements that have allowed an unprecedented number of Americans to qualify for premium tax credits – health insurance subsidies that substantially lower the cost of insurance.

These premium tax credits are based on your household income. Use the subsidy calculator below to see how much money you could save through premium subsidies.

Would ACA subsidies lower your health insurance premiums?

Use our 2022 subsidy calculator to see if you’re eligible for ACA premium subsidies – and your potential savings if you qualify.

Obamacare subsidy calculator *

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Add ages of other family members to be insured.

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Include yourself, your spouse, and children claimed as dependents on your taxes.

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Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI)

For most taxpayers, your MAGI is close to AGI (Line 7 of your Form 1040 in 2018, and Line 8b in 2019).

Estimated annual subsidy

Provide information above to get an estimate.

* This tool provides ACA premium subsidy estimates based on your household income. healthinsurance.org does not collect or store any personal information from individuals using our subsidy calculator.

Find plans with benefits you need

This ACA-compliant coverage is more affordable and it’s required under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) to include a long list of essential health benefits – such as doctors’ services, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, pregnancy and childbirth, mental health services and prescription drug coverage.

Learn more about the ACA and its affordability provisions and read frequently asked questions about health insurance.

An enrollee’s cost and coverage will vary depending on which insurer they use and which metal level they choose: Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. (You can compare plans benefits and premiums by getting a free quote at the top of this page.)

You may be able to enroll now

Enrollment for ACA-compliant health plans is limited to an annual open enrollment period. Open enrollment for 2023 coverage starts on Nov. 1, 2022.

However, outside of open enrollment, you may be able to enroll in ACA-compliant coverage – and you may still be eligible for income-based premium subsidies and possibly cost-sharing subsidies – if you experience a qualifying life event.

You can check your eligibility for special enrollment here.

Frequently asked questions about
individual health insurance

Individual health insurance refers to health insurance coverage in the United States that’s purchased by individuals who don’t have coverage through an employer-sponsored health plan or through government health plan such as Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP or Tricare.

Individual health insurance is also referred to as individual/family coverage, because the plans can also be used to cover family members.

Americans who purchase individual health insurance that’s ACA-compliant through the marketplace in each state can in many cases achieve substantial cost savings through the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies (premium tax credits) and cost-sharing reductions.

In fact, many consumers shopping for ACA / Obamacare plans in 2022 will be able to tap into these subsidies for the first time because the American Rescue Plan increased ACA premium subsidy availability at all income levels.

Consumers can also purchase ACA-compliant health insurance outside the marketplace (ie, “off-exchange“) nationwide, except in the District of Columbia, where individual health insurance can only be purchased through the marketplace. However, the premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions are only available if a plan is purchased through the marketplace (this includes enrollments completed via a direct enrollment or enhanced direct enrollment entity).

 

Regardless of whether you purchase individual health insurance on-exchange or off-exchange, your enrollment in ACA-compliant coverage is limited to the annual open enrollment period or to a special enrollment period triggered by a qualifying event.

In most states, the annual open enrollment period runs from November 1 through January 15. But DC and 17 states run their own enrollment platforms, and some of them have different deadlines.

This article is a detailed overview of how to choose a health insurance plan that will best fit your needs.

A common way to compare individual health insurance plans is by the total cost – the total annual premiums plus the maximum out-of-pocket – that you’d incur with each plan. If you qualify for a premium subsidy, be sure to use the after-subsidy premium for each plan when you’re calculating how much the coverage will cost.

You can determine your after-subsidy premium by using your exchange’s plan browsing tool. It only takes a minute or two and doesn’t require any identifying data. You can also use our subsidy calculator to get a close estimate of how much you’d save on ACA-compliant coverage.

If you are eligible for a premium subsidy, it’s also wise to consider additional cost savings through cost-sharing reductions (CSR) that are built into Silver plans. If your household income does not exceed 250% of federal poverty guidelines, you’re eligible for cost-sharing subsidies in addition to premium subsidies. CSR benefits are particularly strong if your household income doesn’t exceed 200% of the poverty level. If you’re in that range, a Silver plan will likely provide you with the best value.

Plan availability and coverage options vary considerably from one area to another. Some parts of the country have only a single insurer that sells individual health insurance, while other areas have several different insurers and dozens or even hundreds of healthcare plans from which to choose.

To get a clearer picture of your potential plan costs, it’s worth seeking personal assistance from a navigator or broker. (You can call one of healthinsurance.org’s partners at (619) 367-6947 to talk with a licensed, exchange-certified broker who can enroll you in an ACA-compliant plan.)

The overall cost of a health insurance policy includes premiums and cost sharing. Individual health insurance premiums vary greatly, depending on the applicant’s age, zip code, whether they use tobacco, and the health insurance company they choose. But unlike policies issued in most states pre-2014, premiums do not vary based on gender or an applicant’s medical history.

During the open enrollment period for 2022 coverage, more than 14.5 million people signed up for coverage through the marketplaces (health insurance exchanges) nationwide. Most of those enrollees — more than 10.2 million — used the federally-run exchange (HealthCare.gov). Across those enrollees, total premiums averaged $594/month. But 92% of those enrollees were eligible for premium subsidies (premium tax credits) that averaged $524/month, covering the large majority of the total premium.

For 2021 and 2022, the American Rescue Plan significantly boosted subsidies and made them available to more people. So the subsidies available during the open enrollment period for 2022 coverage were larger than subsidies had been during previous fall open enrollment periods.

And they’re also available to more Americans due to the elimination of the income cap for subsidy eligibility. If you haven’t shopped for health insurance recently, you might be pleasantly surprised to see how affordable coverage for 2022 can be.

Finding affordable health insurance has become easier in recent years. The Affordable Care Act was designed to improve the quality of health insurance but also put a heavy emphasis on affordability. As of early 2022, nearly 13 million Americans were receiving income-based premium subsidies that offset the cost of premiums. 

The American Rescue Plan – passed in 2021 – provided further financial relief through several health insurance provisions that made coverage even cheaper than it was under the ACA alone. The ARP enhanced the ACA’s premium subsidies and eliminated the upper income cap for subsidy eligibility, making subsidies available to more enrollees.

Another form of health insurance considered “cheap” is short-term health insurance, which can provide an affordable temporary safety net for consumers while they’re in transition from one life event to another without a comprehensive health plan. 

These temporary health plans offer lower premiums and a wide range of deductibles – but also offer many buyers immediate enrollment, and a degree of flexibility when it comes to providers, services, and plan duration. However, they are not suitable to serve as a long-term replacement for ACA-compliant major medical coverage.

Fast free quotes on health insurance that fits your needs – and your budget

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The American Rescue Plan's premium-cutting subsidies

Find out how the American Rescue Plan has cut marketplace health insurance costs for millions of Americans. Learn about $0 Silver premiums. Enroll now if you have a qualifying life event.

Calculate your subsidy savings!

Do you need short-term coverage?

If your budget is tight, but you’re not eligible for Medicaid or ACA subsidies, you may wish to consider short-term health insurance. Find out if short-term is right for you.
View plan availability in your state.

Check your eligibility for Medicaid

Thirty-six states and Washington, DC, made nearly 10 million low-income Americans eligible for Medicaid by implementing ACA’s Medicaid expansion. See if your state expanded eligibility. Then, use our Federal Poverty Level Calculator to check your eligibility for enrollment.
See if you're eligible.
Medicaid

Medicare open enrollment 2021

Medicare’s open enrollment (Oct. 15-Dec. 7) is an annual opportunity to reevaluate your coverage – whether it’s Original Medicare with supplemental drug coverage, or Medicare Advantage – and make changes or purchase new policies if they want to do so. Learn more in our 2021 Medicare Open Enrollment Guide.
Compare plans!
Medicare

Flexible dental benefits. Fast approval.

Protect yourself from the soaring costs of dental procedures. Compare plan options to see premiums and deductibles that fit your budget.

Compare dental plans

We’re here to help you understand health insurance.

When we’re not helping consumers compare health plan options with a free quote, we’re answering questions from health insurance consumers like you – every day.

I really appreciate you taking the time to help out and explain things to people who need it the most.

- Mohammed (Columbia, MO)

Thank you, Louise! This is extremely helpful and makes me feel better prepared to navigate my transition.

- Erin (Charlottesville, VA)

Louise, Thank you so much for the clear and very helpful response. I’ve learned a lot from you on the subject.

- Sky (Palo Alto, CA)

Thank you, Louise for your detailed answer. Your first paragraph is exactly what we were looking for!

- Bonnie (Bellingham, MA)

Thank you so much … this is one of the clearest articles on the income limits and subsidy amounts.

- Virginia (Orinda, CA)

Our experts and articles referenced in

When it comes to health insurance, we’re the voice of experience.

Talking about health insurance since 1994.
Talking about health insurance since 1994.
We’ve been helping Americans understand and navigate the individual health insurance market since 1994. Nearly 2.8 million readers turned to our pages for help in 2019.
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Tools for health insurance shoppers.
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Partnerships with leading health insurance carriers.

We vet our business partners carefully, so our readers can feel confident when using our free health insurance quote tool to compare ACA-compliant plans, short-term health plans and Medicare plans.

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Experts on health reform.
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Answering your burning questions.
We’re here to answer your burning questions every day. In the past decade, our Frequently Asked Questions section alone has been viewed more than 4 million times.

Learn about health insurance coverage options in your state.

Our state guides offer up-to-date information about ACA-compliant individual and family plans and marketplace enrollment; Medicaid expansion status and Medicaid eligibility; short-term health insurance regulations and short-term plan availability; and Medicare plan options.