Finding the right health insurance can be an overwhelming task. In California, health insurance is necessary if you want to avoid tax penalties. Luckily, various plan options are available to fit your specific health needs. Health insurance for California residents is available through Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, Medicare, and private insurance companies.
Many people can get insurance coverage through their employers, but for those who can’t, many cheap options are available on Covered California, the online Healthcare Marketplace for California residents. Before buying, make sure you know what options are available and which suits you best.
Best affordable health insurance companies in California: shortlist
- L.A. Care – best value for money
- Molina – best premiums
- HealthNet – best customer satisfaction
- BlueShield – best provider network
Best health insurance companies in California listed
Private health insurance in California can be purchased on the Covered California site from over 30 different companies. Prices will vary based on the company and plan you choose. Be sure to check all available options before making a choice. The following plans were selected based on several criteria. We looked at cost, comprehensive coverage, and provider networks to find the plans with the best offerings. The costs listed are estimated based on a 40-year-old individual. They are determined based on Covered California public data.
1. L.A. Care
L.A. Care is considered the best value-for-money health insurance in California in 2023. They offer some of the most affordable rates in the state, making them an attractive option for individuals looking for cost-effective coverage.
L.A. Care primarily serves the Northeast and Southwest regions of Los Angeles County. Still, they have a vast network of 42 hospitals and over 2,500 in-network providers. Their low monthly premiums make them a popular choice among lower-income patients. On average, a 40-year-old can expect to pay $295 for a Bronze plan and $397 for a Gold plan with L.A. Care.
Molina Healthcare stands out for offering the best premiums in California. Molina was established in 1980 and covers six pricing regions: the Eastern region, Northwest L.A. County, Southwest L.A. County, the Inland Empire, and San Diego County.
With an extensive network of providers and hospitals, Molina ensures its members can access quality healthcare services. The average monthly premium for a 40-year-old individual with Molina is $384, making it an affordable option for many Californians.
For those prioritizing customer satisfaction, HealthNet is the top choice. HealthNet offers coverage for individuals, families, and businesses that qualify for Medi-Cal or Medicare. They provide a range of plans, including EPO, PPO, HMO, and HSP options. HealthNet is widely recognized for its exceptional customer service and commitment to high-quality care.
HealthNet also prioritizes preventive care and offers specialized programs to support new parents and individuals with conditions like diabetes. Despite an average monthly cost of around $488, the satisfaction of HealthNet's members and the superior quality of care they provide make it a compelling choice.
In terms of having the most extensive provider network, BlueShield is a superior selection in California. They provide coverage in all ZIP codes across the state and boast one of the largest networks of healthcare providers. Alongside comprehensive coverage, BlueShield offers programs emphasizing preventive care, telehealth options, and discounts on alternative treatments such as acupuncture.
BlueShield also provides discounts on specific vision brands and fitness services. Despite being slightly more expensive, with an average monthly rate of just above $600, BlueShield's comprehensive plans and expansive provider network position them as a top choice for individuals seeking comprehensive coverage.
Comparing the affordable health insurance companies in California
|Insurance Provider||Cost||Comprehensive Coverage||Provider Networks||Individual needs|
|L.A. Care||Affordable rates and lowest premiums||Coverage in Northeast and Southwest Los Angeles County pricing regions. 42 hospitals and over 2,500 in-network providers.||Extensive network for accessibility||Popular choice for cost-effective coverage|
|Molina||Competitive pricing, varies by region||Extensive network of providers and hospitals||Large provider network for enhanced access||Caters to individual needs with plans in multiple pricing regions|
|HealthNet||Coverage for individuals, families, and businesses||Focus on preventive care. Offers EPO, PPO, HMO and HSP plans. Recognized for excellent customer service and quality of care.||Narrow network compared to to the other plans||Aim to meet individual needs, especially for Medi-Cal or Medicare qualifiers|
|BlueShield||Slightly more expensive with average monthly rate of just over $600||Comprehensive coverage including preventive care, telehealth options, and discounts on alternative care||One of the largest provider networks||Extensive coverage for those seeking various healthcare services|
How we ranked the best health insurance in California in 2023
We considered several factors to rank the best health insurance options, including cost, comprehensive coverage, and provider networks. Our analysis was based on public data from Covered California, the online Healthcare Marketplace for California residents. Covered California offers private health insurance plans from over 30 companies, providing various choices.
Affordability is a crucial factor when selecting health insurance. Prices will vary based on the company and plan you choose. Our rankings consider the estimated costs for a 40-year-old individual, allowing for a meaningful comparison between the plans.
However, it's important to note that individual circumstances may vary, and it is advisable to compare quotes from all available health insurance providers to find the most suitable plan for your budget.
Comprehensive coverage ensures that your healthcare needs are adequately addressed. All plans listed in our rankings must cover the “Essential 10 Health Benefits” as required by law.
Additionally, we considered the level of coverage provided by each plan, including benefits such as preventive care, doctor visits, and prescription drugs. Plans offering a wide range of services with reasonable co-pays and deductibles were considered more.
Access to a robust network of healthcare providers and hospitals is essential for receiving quality care. We evaluated the size and availability of each health insurance company's provider networks.
Plans with extensive networks encompassing a diverse range of specialists and facilities were given greater weight in our rankings. This ensures you have a broad choice of healthcare professionals and facilities when seeking medical treatment.
While our rankings provide valuable insights, it's crucial to acknowledge that the suitability of a health insurance plan heavily depends on your individual needs and budget. Every person and family has unique healthcare requirements. Therefore, other health insurance plans on the Covered California site may be more appropriate for your circumstances.
We encourage you to carefully consider your healthcare needs, compare quotes from different providers, or seek the expertise of a health insurance agent or broker before making a final decision.
How does health insurance in California work?
Many people can get health insurance coverage through their employers. Companies can purchase group plans from health insurance companies, and most even pay a portion of the employee's monthly premium. This is an excellent option if your current employer offers it.
If you are not able to get insurance through your employer, you can buy a private insurance plan. You can purchase a health insurance policy directly from the insurance company, through an insurance agent, or through California’s Healthcare Marketplace, Covered California. You may also qualify for Med-Cal, California's Medicaid program, if you meet certain income requirements.
Through Covered California, you can see the available options and choose what works best for you. You can get an insurance plan or change your current plan during the Open Enrollment season from November through January. You may purchase at other times if you have a qualifying life event. Qualifying events include:
- Loss of current health insurance coverage
- Moving to and becoming a resident of California
- Having a baby or adopting a child
- Getting married or entering into a domestic partnership
- Return from active military duty
- Gaining citizenship or lawful residence
Coverage begins on January 1st if you enroll by December 15th during the Open Enrollment period. If you purchase coverage at another time, coverage starts on the first day of the following month.
Health insurance coverage by metal tiers
Covered California health insurance plans are divided into tiers by coverage level. All plans must cover the “Essential 10 Health Benefits” as required by law, but each tier offers a different cost structure that determines how much you pay and how much your insurance plan covers.
The four tier levels are Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Bronze plans offer the cheapest monthly premiums but have higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. Platinum plans have higher monthly premiums but lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.
The Bronze plan tier is excellent for healthy families and individuals who do not need high levels of routine healthcare. Their lower monthly premium is more affordable for many families looking for a plan covering major illness or injury but not necessarily needing routine care. Bronze plans come with free preventive care, and the first three doctor office visits have a fixed copay amount even before your deductible is met.
Silver plans are affordable middle-of-the-road options with good coverage and reasonable co-pays for standard medical services. Preventive care is included at no cost. Routine services like doctor visits and lab work have a set copay of $40 – $85 before your deductible is met. They come with a mid-range deductible and reasonable out-of-pocket maximum limits.
Gold plans are best for individuals and families who frequently use medical services. There is no deductible to meet and free preventive health care. While the monthly premiums are higher, you will have fewer initial out-of-pocket costs since there is no deductible to meet. Doctor visit co-pays are fixed at $35-$60, and generic drugs are only $15.
These upper-tier plans provide the most coverage and do not have a yearly deductible to meet. Monthly premiums can cost an average of $828, but with no deductible and a $15 doctor visit copay, it is a good option if you have a medical condition or health need that requires frequent medical care. Platinum plans also have the lowest out-of-pocket maximums.
How to choose the best health insurance plan in California?
When choosing health insurance in California, it is essential to consider several factors. Many plan options are available, and you want to make sure you choose the most affordable plan with the coverage you need. You can compare plans through the Covered California program and decide what’s best for you.
Consider your health needs and budget when shopping for the right insurance plan:
- Make a list of your current medications, so you can compare your medications to those covered by your plan’s formulary.
- List your current healthcare providers and check if they accept your plan.
- Review the metal tier options and decide which fits your needs best.
- Sign on or create an account on the Covered California website to see if you qualify for Medi-Cal.
- If you do not qualify, you can search the plans available to you and find the one that fits your budget.
Remember, making an informed decision about your health insurance coverage is vital to ensure you receive the care and protection you deserve.
Health insurance options in California
There have been many changes to health insurance options in California since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010. Pre-existing conditions are no longer a factor, as you cannot be denied coverage due to a previous medical issue. Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid plan, has expanded to include all low-income adults over 50, regardless of immigration status. Covered California, the healthcare marketplace available in California, has made it easier for California residents to choose the best insurance option for them.
In addition to the many plan options, there are different types of insurance plans. Different phases in life may dictate the type of plan you currently need.
Short-term health insurance
Short-term health insurance offers basic plans that cover you for a short period. This type of plan is helpful if you are in a transition period between jobs or if you are not planning on staying in the state. However, these options do not meet the minimum essential coverage (MEC) qualifications, so you will still be subject to tax penalties if you choose this plan.
Student health insurance
Colleges and universities in California offer health insurance to all enrolled students. These plans count as full coverage health insurance and cover the ten essential health benefits required by law. These plans are offered to all students with optional participation. For some, remaining covered under their parent’s insurance plans may be a better option. However, Student Health Insurance plans are typically a cheap option for those who are not covered on a parent's plan.
Domestic partner insurance
Entering a domestic partnership is considered a qualifying life event, making purchasing insurance outside the regular open enrollment period possible. A domestic partnership is defined as two adults living together in a consenting relationship who “share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” You can file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State to qualify for this type of insurance.
Small business insurance
Small businesses can purchase group coverage to offer their employees health insurance. Covered California has a specific section for small businesses with offerings from six companies with year-round enrollment. Companies can choose two consecutive tiers of the four available metal tier options to offer their employees. For example, they can offer Bronze and Silver or Silver and Gold plans. Purchasing as a group can help make insurance more affordable for employees.
Is health insurance mandatory in California?
No, California residents are not required to have health insurance, but anyone who chooses not to have coverage has to pay a tax penalty. If cost is your main concern, look for a low-premium/high-deductible plan that meets the tax requirements. Also, be sure to check if you qualify for subsidies or programs like Medicaid.
Which company has the cheapest insurance in California?
L.A. Care has the most affordable rates but is only offered in certain areas. Molina Healthcare also has affordable rates and provides coverage in more areas of the state. You can find the cheapest plan in your area by searching the California Healthcare Marketplace website.
How much does health insurance in California cost?
Prices vary by plan and coverage options chosen. Monthly premiums average between $486–$942 per person. Plans with lower monthly payments typically have a higher deductible. Be sure to look at all potential costs, not just the monthly premium.
When is the enrollment period in California?
Open enrollment in California is from November 1st through January 31st each year. Plans purchased by December 15th are effective on January 1st. Plans purchased by January 15th are effective on February 1st. Your insurance plan will not pay for medical care that occurred before the effective date.
Can you get free health insurance in California?
Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, offers healthcare coverage at no cost to individuals who qualify. California has the largest Medicaid program in the nation with over 12 million members. To see if you qualify you can apply through the Health Care for California website.
- Health for California. Healthcare Options in California.
- California Department of Insurance. Health Insurance Guide.
- Covered California. Before You Buy.
- San Francisco Health Service System. Domestic Partner Health Coverage and your Taxes.
- Covered California. Buying Health Insurance in 2023.
Show all references
- calhealth.net. HEALTHNET VERSUS LA CARE COMPARISON.