If you need to buy health insurance, you’re in good company. In 2020, the number of uninsured people in the United States increased (for the fourth year in a row) to approximately 30 million individuals.1 We’ll explain each option for buying your own health insurance so you can decide which path might be best for you.
Option 1: Use the Government’s Health Insurance Marketplace
The Health Insurance Marketplace is often referred to as the health insurance “exchange.” Depending on your income and your eligibility for other health insurance coverage, you may qualify for subsidies—also called premium tax credits—when you buy health insurance through the marketplace.
You can buy a marketplace policy even if you are eligible for insurance through your employer, and it doesn’t hurt to see if you can find a better plan for your situation. You probably won’t be eligible for subsidies if you have access to job-based coverage, though.
Open enrollment for 2022 coverage began Nov. 1, 2021. You had to enroll by Dec. 15 for coverage that began Jan. 1, 2022.2 In 2021, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the open enrollment period was extended from Feb. 15 to May 15.3
State exchanges may have slightly different enrollment dates. It’s important to buy a policy during this annual enrollment period because you won’t be able to buy a policy for the rest of the year unless you have a qualifying life event like moving, getting married, or having a child.
You can apply online, by phone, or in person. If you need help applying, you can work with a marketplace navigator in some states, a certified application counselor, or in-person assistance personnel. You must be a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the country to buy a marketplace plan.
Start your search for a marketplace policy at HealthCare.gov. Enter your zip code and you’ll be directed to buy a policy through the federal marketplace. If your state has its own marketplace, you’ll be redirected to your state’s website. You can also find direct links to state exchanges at Healthcare.gov’s The Marketplace in your state site.
If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), you can find out by visiting your state’s Medicaid website or by filling out an application at HealthCare.gov.4
How Much Does Health Insurance Cost?
The average annual premiums in 2021 were $7,739 for single coverage and $22,221 for family coverage, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Prices for 2022 are expected to increase, as they do most years: For instance, 2020 saw a 2.1% increase. Premiums in 2019 jumped 4% from the year prior. For 2022, Willis Towers Watson projected a 5.2% increase in healthcare premiums.11
In 2021, the average premium for single coverage increased by 4%, and the average premium for family coverage increased by 4%. The average family premium has increased 47% since 2011 and 22% since 2016, according to KFF.12
How Do I Get Health Insurance if I Am Retired?
If you are retired but still under the age of 65 and no longer have employment health insurance due to job loss, you can apply for coverage through the healthcare Marketplace. Losing coverage will qualify you for a special enrollment period.13 Based on household size and income, you may qualify for a premium tax credit and lower out-of-pocket costs.
Retirees who are 65 and older will qualify for Medicare and Medicare Advantage. You can also switch to a Marketplace plan if you have retiree health coverage but won’t be eligible for the tax credits and lower out-of-pocket benefits or the special enrollment period. If you turn 65 in the middle of the year, you can apply for a Marketplace plan to cover you until Medicare begins.