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Contributor, Benzinga
March 24, 2022

Quick Look: The Best Free or Discounted Health Insurance

The high cost of health insurance is one of the most debated topics in our country. You’ve heard about high deductibles, steep copays and expensive prescriptions, leaving you to wonder if health insurance is really worth the cost. On the other hand, you can now be penalized by not having health insurance.

The good news is, if you’re unemployed or do not make a high income, you can actually get health insurance for free or at a discounted rate. Want to learn more about these affordable health insurance options? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about free individual health insurance.

5 Best Free or Discounted Health Insurance Carriers

Now that you understand more about free and reduced health insurance and how to qualify, you might be wondering which healthcare provider is the best. While providers may vary based on the coverage you’re looking for and your location, we’ve compiled 5 of the best health insurance companies and grouped them into categories to help you make an informed decision.

1. Best for Customer Satisfaction: Aetna Medicaid

Aetna is a major name in the health insurance industry, but it also has a Medicaid sector. Aetna Medicaid offers access to a larger network of care, as well as wellness programs.

It offers low-cost healthcare plans to qualifying members with a high customer satisfaction rating. It currently provides Medicaid services in California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

2. Best for Choice in Care Providers: Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield makes sure you don’t get left behind with its large network of Medicaid accepting providers. With one of the largest networks of physicians and care providers in the country, Blue Cross Blue Shield is a convenient choice for many Medicaid applicants.

Its HIP Basic plan offers hospital stays, doctor’s appointments and prescriptions at low costs, while its HIP Plus offers $0 costs for hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, dentists appointments, vision care or chiropractic services.

3. Best for Additional Features: Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente offers a range of affordable health insurance options, including providing Medicaid. If you qualify for Medicaid through Kaiser Permanente, you’ll also receive access to their mobile app, wellness programs (at discounted rates), education center and experienced staff.

It offers a good selection of in-network physicians to choose from at low or no cost. You can receive Medicaid through Kaiser Permanente in California, Colorado, D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.

4. Best for Online Convenience: UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is another top name in the healthcare industry, offering Medicaid services if you qualify. The UnitedHealthcare Community Plan will help you find the low-income program that’s best for your family.

If you qualify, you’ll gain access to its online platform which allows you to quickly schedule appointments without disrupting your day. You can even request prescriptions online, talk to a nurse or take part in one of its online wellness programs. 

5. Best for Low Costs and Fees: Molina Healthcare

Molina is a top provider for Medicaid in the country. It works closely with state governments to ensure you’re given the best coverage possible, for the lowest price. You can expect no copays and full coverage for most medical services through this provider.

Low or no copays for prescription drugs are also the norm for Molina Medicaid. You can receive Medicaid through Molina in California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Is Health Insurance Really Free?

There are a few types of health insurance options available for you and your family if you’re unemployed, uninsured and pregnant, if you make a low-to-moderate income or if you are disabled. Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and government-subsidized Marketplace healthcare plans are all options to explore if you fit these categories.

Medicaid: This health insurance is a national, government-provided health insurance program that helps low-income or disabled Americans and their families better afford healthcare. Medicaid is a national program but is funded through each individual state. Sometimes Medicaid pays for your health expenses directly, but other forms by requiring you to choose a Medicaid plan offered through private insurance companies. 

Medicaid coverage, guidelines and costs can vary from state to state. Medicaid is often free for qualifying applicants, but can also offer discounted insurance if you’re in the higher or more moderate-income brackets. It will also cover your children if they are uninsured.

To learn more about specific Medicaid options and requirements in your state, visit

CHIP: If you earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford health insurance for your family, your children can qualify for CHIP. CHIP offers affordable insurance options for children under 19. Even if you do qualify for Medicaid, your children might be placed on a CHIP insurance plan. CHIP can also cover pregnant women.

Requirements and costs for CHIP vary from state to state. You can learn more at

Government subsidies for Marketplace plan: The Marketplace is where you can shop around for insurance coverage if you don’t like your company plan, do not receive insurance through your job or are unemployed. Although there are many low-cost plans available on the Marketplace, you may not be able to afford the copays or deductibles on most major plans. 

To help, the government may offer you tax credits, pay part of your premiums or provide savings on copays, deductibles and other healthcare expenses depending on your income and household size. 

You can find out how much you may be eligible to save on a Marketplace plan by entering your state, household size and income at

Other Health Insurance Options for the Recently Unemployed

If you just lost your job or know layoffs are on the horizon but make too much to qualify for Medicaid or government subsidies, there’s another option you should look into.

COBRA: Many workplaces offer the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage to employees in the event that they lose their job or are no longer eligible for workplace health insurance. COBRA allows you to extend your health insurance for a certain amount of time (typically 18 months). This gives you time to find a new job with health insurance or to find a different long-term health care plan during your transition period. The amount you pay will vary based on your coverage terms and location.

Who Qualifies for Free or Reduced Health Insurance?

There are different qualifications you’ll need to meet to qualify for free or reduced health insurance for Medicaid, CHIP or a Marketplace plan. For any of these plans, you’ll need to meet one of the below factors to qualify.

You’ll need to be:

  • Unemployed
  • A low-income earner
  • Pregnant
  • Disabled

Income limits and discounts are determined by state for each type of insurance. If you exceed your state’s income limits, your children still may qualify for CHIP insurance. Other factors may apply depending on the type of coverage you opt for and where you live.

Factors That Determine Free or Low-Cost Health Insurance

When determining your healthcare premiums, insurance providers typically look at 5 main factors: age, location, tobacco use, individual or family plan selection and category (or level of service). These factors all help determine how much your healthcare premium will be.

These factors are still relevant when determining whether you qualify for free or low-cost insurance, but additional factors including your employment status, pregnancy status and income level will also determine your eligibility.

How to Apply for Free or Discounted Health Insurance

Do you think you might qualify for free or reduced healthcare but aren’t sure where to start? You can easily find out your status for discounted health insurance for Medicaid, CHIP or a Marketplace plan by completing a Marketplace application.

You can learn more about applying for health insurance on the Marketplace at

Stay Protected for Less 

Health insurance doesn’t have to be a burden — especially if you qualify for discounts or free coverage. You should look into all of your options before selecting a free or reduced healthcare plan, to ensure it has the coverage you and your family need. If you’d like to get a quote on a discounted health care plan, Benzinga can help. All we need is your ZIP code and we’ll show you some plans you may be eligible for.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can you qualify for Medicare prior to age 65?


You can qualify for Medicare prior to age 65, but only in special circumstances, primarily when you are on Social Security Disability or if you are disabled due to your military service.


Is Medicaid the same in every state?


Medicaid is not the same in every state. You must check with a local Medicaid office to learn more.