Free or low cost health insurance is available to seniors, disabled individuals, and low-income families. People looking for Marketplace insurance may discover they qualify for savings through government programs.
The following insurance programs are among the most popular government health insurance plans available. However, some states have additional programs for residents who struggle to cover medical expenses.
Medicare is a low cost health insurance program for almost anyone 65 years of age or older. Younger people may qualify for Medicare coverage if they have a qualifying disability or condition, such as End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
The Medicare program has four parts:
- Part A – Otherwise known as hospital insurance, this part covers inpatient care at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and hospices.
- Part B – This part covers costs related to doctors’ services, preventive services, outpatient care, and medical supplies.
- Part C – This part consists of Medicare Advantage Plans, which are similar to employer based insurance plans, as they can provide coverage for all of the above costs and more.
- Part D plans cover prescription medications and are only available for Part A or Part B enrollees.
Most Medicare participants qualify for premium-free Part A coverage, which means it costs them nothing to maintain Medicare Part A coverage. To qualify, individuals must have worked in a job where they paid Medicare taxes for a certain amount of time.
Those who do not qualify for premium-free Part A can still enroll in the program as long as they meet all other qualifications. However, they will be required to pay monthly premiums.
Even if individuals qualify for premium-free Part A, there may be other costs associated with Parts B, C, and D.
Medicaid provides health care coverage for low-income adults and certain qualified children and pregnant women. Medicaid eligibility varies by location, since states are allowed to set their own specific qualifications in addition to criteria set by the federal government.
In most places, households can qualify for Medicaid if their annual income is less than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Children may meet Medicaid eligibility requirements even if their parents do not, since the program accepts children from higher-income households.
Income limits do not apply to some groups of people, including the following:
- Blind or disabled individuals
- Former foster care participants
- Individuals in certain breast and cervical cancer treatment programs
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health insurance for children in households that earn too much money to apply for Medicaid. Like Medicaid, state requirements for CHIP vary.
CHIP plans often cover more services than Medicaid. For instance, children can get dental and vision care while adults need to pay for this additional coverage. Preventive services, including dental, are free for kids with CHIP plans. The easiest way to apply for Medicaid, CHIP, or Medicare is through the Health Insurance Marketplace website. Upon entering personal and financial information, the application system determines whether applicants qualify for these government insurance plans and tax subsidies. Find out more about premium reductions and other savings next.