Healthcare in our country is expensive and so is the insurance that pays for it. Trying to sift through the options available for health insurance is often confusing and frustrating, particularly to people with limited income and resources. Several options for free or affordable health care insurance include:


Medicaid, a collaboration between state and federal governments, is the largest health insurance provider in the United States. Medicaid currently covers over 60 million low-income individuals in all states, territories, and the District of Columbia. This insurance is provided at no cost. Coverage for many services is mandatory such as:

  • Care provided by physicians, nurse practitioners and midwives
  • Laboratory, imaging and diagnostic services
  • Family planning
  • Nursing facilities for aged 21 and older

Also covered in all instances is treatment from community health centers and clinics including mobile health clinics. A young mother would find this information valuable when seeking treatment from for her child.

You can apply for Medicaid through a local Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange or directly through your state’s Medicaid program.

Short-Term Health Insurance

Ranging from 12 to 36 months, short-term health insurance is less expensive than a full, comprehensive policy. It is a good fit for a reasonably healthy person looking for temporary coverage. However, short-term health insurance does not satisfy the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for insurance and leaves the policyholder in jeopardy of receiving a tax penalty.

Further, unlike Medicaid, a short-term health insurance policy is not required to provide coverage for certain medical situations such as family planning or maternity care to just name a few. Whereas eligibility for Medicaid is income-based, short-term health insurance is health-based and can be denied if the applicant is deemed high risk.

Short-term health insurance is purchased directly through a health insurance company and is not available through the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange.

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act provides subsidies to people with low incomes both for the purchase and use of health insurance. For example, if your income is between 100 and 400% of the federal poverty level, the government will pay a portion of your monthly health insurance premium. If your income is between 100 and 250% of the federal poverty level, you may receive assistance with co-pays and deductibles.

These subsidies, however, are only allowed to be used to purchase Obamacare health insurance sold on the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange. They cannot be used for work-place related health insurance or insurance not purchased through the exchange.

You can apply for these benefits on your state’s health insurance exchange.

Employer-Provided Health Insurance

Most employers in the United States offer health insurance subsidies to their full-time employees as part of the benefits package. This is not required, nor are part-time employees usually included, but it is a fairly common practice.

Typically a new employee will enroll promptly to avoid missing open enrollment. After a waiting period, the coverage will take effect for the employee and family, if applicable. Once the employee leaves the company, the coverage will terminate. However, the employee may turn to COBRA for the temporary continuation of benefits.

Spouse’s Health Insurance

Most employers who offer health insurance subsidies to their employees also extend this benefit to the employee’s dependents – spouse and children. It is important to confirm this though; if the family is not subsidized by the employer, it might be more financially beneficial to seek their coverage elsewhere.

Parent’s Health Insurance

Employer-provided health insurance, Obamacare or privately-purchased health insurance will cover children up to 26 years old, regardless of their marital or work status. As mentioned in #5, if the employer does not subsidize coverage for dependents, this might not be the best way to go.

Health insurance is necessary. Be sure to explore all options and ask questions to ensure you get the best and most affordable coverage for yourself and your family.