Terry Savage: Free health insurance is available above the poverty level

Terry Savage, Tribune Content Agency on

Millions of Americans still fall into the no-health-insurance gap. They earn too much to qualify for Medicaid in their state but not enough to afford ACA (Obamacare) health insurance policies — even with the recently increased subsidies. Many are unaware that they now qualify for a 100% subsidy — basically free insurance — if they enroll.

The government is now offering a new, year-round special enrollment period for people who earn between 100 and 150% of the federal poverty level, which is too much to qualify for their state Medicaid program. They can sign up now for a zero-premium ACA, even if they missed last winter’s open enrollment period.

The vast majority of Americans get their health insurance though work — or, in the case of seniors, through Medicare. Employees get some choices in coverage and costs, with many opting for high-deductible plans combined with pre-tax health savings accounts.

Those enrolled in Medicare have a choice between the traditional Medicare, which carries monthly premiums based on income, and Medicare Advantage plans, which may have low or zero monthly premiums in exchange for managed care restrictions and networks.

Every year, I write about the December special enrollment period (SEP) that allows small businesses to set up pre-tax health insurance coverage without employer contributions.

And for those who don’t get health insurance at work, Obamacare came along to offer more affordable individual plans with premium subsidies. Currently, more than 14.5 million Americans receive health insurance through the ACA benefits. Still millions don’t have a health insurance policy and can’t get Medicaid in their state of residence.


Today’s column is directed at low-income people who might sign up for an ACA policy — if they knew they could enroll right now and pay zero premiums!

As of March 21, 2022, there is a new year-round special enrollment period for these free (zero premium) ACA policies. This 100% premium subsidy is intended for people who earn too much to qualify for their state’s Medicaid program but less than 150% of the federal poverty level.

The calculation of eligibility for this 100% premium subsidy is based on location, income and the number of people in the household. has created a simple calculator to figure out if you — or someone of low income whom you might know — is eligible for this free health insurance.


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