Health Insurance Is Suddenly Cheaper for Many People

2017 is a strange year for buying health insurance. Some strange and bad things have happened and it looks like we should expect insurance plans to get more expensive. But it turns out that now many people can get cheaper insurance, and for a strange reason.

Here’s why: Some of the government fun involved with CSR payments means silver plans are way more expensive than usual. But the government also provides subsidies to help low- and middle-income families pay for insurance – and the dollar amount of those subsidies is based on the price of the Silver plans . So the subsidies are now huge too.

This means that if you get a subsidy, your silver plan is likely to be about the same as last year. But that means you can also save some money by purchasing the cheaper Bronze plan instead. For many people, the subsidies are large enough that they can get the bronze plan for free .

The Wall Street Journal reports that a 60-year-old man earning $ 36,000 a year can get a premium-free plan in more than half of the counties in the country. Even with an income of $ 48,000, a 60-year-old man can get zero premium coverage in over 600 counties. In California, half a million people can pay the minimum state fee of $ 1 a month.

Even if you don’t get a lot of that good, a lot of people will find something cheap. For example, last year, 71 percent of people on the exchanges could get a plan for less than $ 75 a month. This year, according to a federal government report , 80 percent of people can. And that’s on average; in some states, such as Alabama, more than 90 percent of people shopping on exchanges will find a plan that costs $ 75 or less.

How do I know if I will get this deal?

If you are a single person earning $ 48,240 or less and do not have an employer-based health plan, you are probably eligible for subsidies. (If your household has more than one person, the limit will be different: $ 98,000 for a family of four, and we have more numbers here .)

Even if you were not eligible for a subsidy in the past, it is worth checking again. The details change every year: the federal poverty rate is on the rise, and your own income, age, and family size are also not constant from year to year. Meanwhile, the insurance plans available in your area will also change from year to year.

Therefore, we cannot give you a hard yes or no answer. Instead, go to and view the numbers. This calculator can tell you if you are getting a subsidy based on adjusted gross income, and then you can preview plans to see actual prices. (Some states use their own exchange instead of, so you can use the subsidy calculator, but go to your state website to see prices.)

Special cases

Again, this is a challenging year for healthcare, so I called Charles Gaba, an analyst at . It tracks insurance prices and listing on exchanges. “Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be automatically credited,” he said. Here’s what happens if you don’t choose a plan. You usually get a plan similar to the one you had before. But this year the situation is so chaotic that all the bets have been made. Take a closer look at the shops.

He also pointed out several cases where it was more difficult to find cheap insurance:

  • If you are not eligible for the subsidy , you are not benefiting from the high silver prices. All you see are high silver prices. You probably want to upgrade to bronze (cheaper, but usually with a high deductible), or upgrade to gold, which is excellent coverage at a higher price point. But this year, chances are high that gold plan premiums will actually be cheaper than those sky-high silver premiums.
  • If you are not eligible for a subsidy and live in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin or Wyoming, there’s a special deal for you. If you want one of those silver plans that seems out of reach, find an insurer that offers it and see if they offer the same plan on the exchange . In these states, they are allowed to do this, and it should be much cheaper than the exchange version.
  • In Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, the incremental costs that most states place on Silver plans are spread across all plans. So whether you get a subsidy or not, switching to another plan is unlikely to do you much good.
  • Regardless, compare prices . There may be special loopholes or problems for your particular situation.

So don’t think that insurance will be too expensive; run by numbers and find out.


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