For those who don’t have access to employer-sponsored plans, coverage on the individual market is an option. This market has changed dramatically as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to 2014, in most states, individual coverage was medically underwritten, which meant that coverage was only available for purchase if the applicant was at least fairly healthy, as the insurance companies would closely scrutinize your complete medical history when you applied. Coverage in the individual market was typically not as robust as employer-sponsored health insurance; maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health care were often missing from the coverage. And people who purchased individual market coverage prior to 2014 had to pay the whole premium themselves.


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However, they might still be able to find a less expensive plan in the individual/family market, even paying full price for the premiums. It would almost certainly have a higher deductible and out-of-pocket exposure than the plan Doug's employer offers, but that might be a trade-off that the family considers worthwhile. Doug might find that his employer-sponsored coverage for just himself is very affordable, since employers often pay more towards the employee's premiums than they pay towards additional family members' premiums. So Doug's family might opt to keep Doug on the employer-sponsored plan and get an individual market plan for his wife and kids.
But the ACA changed all that. Medical underwriting is no longer used, although applicants can now only enroll during open enrollment or a special enrollment period triggered by a qualifying event (similar to how enrollment works for employer-sponsored plans). Essential health benefits are now covered on all new individual major medical plans in every state. And millions of people are receiving premium subsidies that cover the majority of their premiums for plans purchased in each state’s health insurance exchange (the ACA’s consumer protection reforms apply to plans sold outside the exchanges as well, but the subsidies are only available in the exchange). The ACA also limits the percentage of premiums that insurers can use for administrative costs, including profits and executives’ salaries; insurers have refunded billions of dollars to consumers as a result of the new rules.
How do the benefits differ? What would you owe in out-of-pocket costs if you were to be injured or get seriously ill? How does that compare with your out-of-pocket exposure on the employer-sponsored plan? Are your doctors in the network of the individual plan? You'll want to carefully consider all of these things before switching, and keep in mind that you won't be able to rejoin your employer's plan until the next open enrollment window offered by your employer.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is intended to ensure that Americans have access to healthcare they can afford. To that end, it has created a public marketplace where people can buy health insurance. Depending on life circumstances and income, this public marketplace provides insurance plans with tax credits that lower premiums to make the plans more accessible to many Americans. If you’re interested in learning more information about the public marketplace, we can help you evaluate the options.

But the ACA changed all that. Medical underwriting is no longer used, although applicants can now only enroll during open enrollment or a special enrollment period triggered by a qualifying event (similar to how enrollment works for employer-sponsored plans). Essential health benefits are now covered on all new individual major medical plans in every state. And millions of people are receiving premium subsidies that cover the majority of their premiums for plans purchased in each state’s health insurance exchange (the ACA’s consumer protection reforms apply to plans sold outside the exchanges as well, but the subsidies are only available in the exchange). The ACA also limits the percentage of premiums that insurers can use for administrative costs, including profits and executives’ salaries; insurers have refunded billions of dollars to consumers as a result of the new rules.


But it's also worth noting that if they keep the employer-sponsored plan for the whole family, the premiums will almost certainly be payroll deducted on the pre-tax basis. On the other hand, if they opt to buy an individual market plan, the premiums would only be tax deductible to the extent that they (along with other medical expenses) exceed 10 percent of the family's household income, and assuming that the family opts to itemize their tax deductions (increasingly rare now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has greatly increased the standard deduction).
Public health insurance is provided or subsidized in some way by the federal government. Medicare, Veteran benefits, and insurance provided to federal employees are all examples of public health insurance. Private health insurance, on the other hand, is provided by private companies. The CDC estimated that in 2017, 65 percent of Americans under age 65 were covered by private insurance.
If the coverage available through your employer feels unaffordable, you can shop around online to see what's available. You may be able to find an individual market policy that will provide you with the coverage you need but is less expensive than the premium you pay at work. This is unlikely to be the case if your plan only covers yourself, since your employer is likely subsidizing a good chunk of the total premiums for the plan offered through your job. But some employer-sponsored plans require the employee to cover the full cost of adding family members, so it's possible that your family members could get a better deal with a separate policy.
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