How and Where You Can Get a $0-Per-Month Health Care Plan

"The Office" Michael Scott holding health care plan

Choosing a health care plan is easier when it’s low-cost or free. | NBC

  • There are low-cost or free health care plans out there for qualifying individuals.
  • Availability varies from county to county, but they’re available statewide in certain areas.
  • Here are the qualifications, and the states that have the highest availability.

If you know anything about modern American health care, it’s that it’s wildly expensive. This has been a cornerstone of the entire debate surrounding Obamacare — or the Affordable Care Act — as it was prophesized that the new laws would help control growing costs. While you can argue about it until the cows come home, the fact remains that many people are still priced out of the insurance market. Either that or they’re willing to eat the “fine” instead of abiding by the individual mandate.

All in all, the American health care system is still a mess, though you could argue that it’s getting better. Or worse — depending on your perspective and place in the social strata.

A lot of it depends on where you live, too. Some states have taken advantage of federal funding to expand coverage through Medicaid. Others, mostly those with conservative governors (governors make the call), have not — and as a result, have left a lot of people out to dry. Again, though, most people aren’t really interested in getting into a philosophical debate about health care subsidies. They just want insurance or coverage, and they want it at a reasonable price.

Well, how does $0 per month sound? In certain areas, plans exist that are essentially free. You have to tick all of the right boxes, of course. But if you can meet the qualifications and live in the right place, these plans could be a viable option. How can you tell if you qualify? And where are these plans available? We’ll get into it.

First up: How to qualify for a low-cost or free health care plan.

How to qualify for a $0 per-month health care plan

Doctor measures blood pressure of the patient

There are several steps to qualify. | Piotr Adamowicz/iStock/Getty Images

  • It boils down to two main factors: Your age and your income.

According to a report from The Century Foundation, you’ll need to fit into two key groups in order to qualify for a premium-free plan. Those groups? Young people (under 30), and low-income (annual earnings below $25,000). There are caveats, of course, and just because you’re in the right demographic doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find a premium-free plan. But they exist, according to The Century Foundation.

“Almost half (42 percent) of counties providing coverage through HealthCare.gov offer a zero-premium plan for thirty-year-olds with an income of $25,000 or less,” the report said. “The percentage is 35 and 29 for individuals aged 27 and 21, respectively.”

Next: The states in which these plans are the most accessible.

1. Montana

Missoula, Montana

Premium-free plans are available in all counties in Montana. | Andy Kemmis/iStock/Getty Images

  • $0 per-month plans are available in every county in Montana.

As for where these plans are available, The Century Foundation provides a map with state-by-state and county-by-county breakdowns. There are a handful of states in which all counties make premium-free plans available to those who qualify, and Montana is among them. In every county in Montana, a 30-year-old making $25,000 or less should be able to find a premium-free plan. And that goes for folks in two other age groups, too: 21-year-olds, and 27-year-olds.

Next: Montana’s southern, and even more rural neighbor.

2. Wyoming

The sun hits the tips of the Grand Tetons October 5, 2012 in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming. Approximately 310,000 acres (130,000 ha) in size, the park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile (64 km) long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Despite it being a rural state where health care often can be tricky, Wyoming offers premium-free plans. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

  • Like Montana, free plans can be found state-wide.

Wyoming is the most rural state in the nation, with the exception of Alaska. As such, it can make health care tricky as hospitals and doctors can be a long way from patients. Even so, in every single one of Wyoming’s 23 counties, a 30-year-old should be able to find a premium-free plan, assuming they earn $25,000 or less. And that’s also true for almost all 21- and 27-year-olds.

Next: We stay out west.

3. Utah

Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

Utah is yet another rural state on the list. | iStock/Getty Images

  • The pattern is clear: Rural states have a wider availability of low-cost or free plans.

Yes, rural western states feature prominently on this list. Utah is among them. Though Utah has a higher population than Wyoming and Montana (and features at least one major city), young adults who don’t earn much money can find a premium-free insurance plan in every county in the state.

Next: When it comes to a cheaper health plan, the “sooner” the better in this state.

4. Oklahoma

oklahoma city

Oklahoma offers similar deals for young, low-income adults. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

  • Like the others on our list, Oklahoma has state-wide access to free plans.

Not much changes from Utah, Wyoming, and Montana to Oklahoma, at least in terms of premium-free health care plans for young, low-income adults. In Oklahoma, the story is the same. If you’re 21, 27, or 30 years old and earn under that $25,000 annual threshold, premium-free plans should be available.

Next: The lone Southern state on our list.

5. Tennessee

Gatlinburg Tennessee

All of the state’s 95 counties provide premium-free health care plans. | Sean Pavone Photo/iStock/Getty Images

  • Again, wide availability in Tennessee.

Tennessee has 95 counties. And in all of them, a healthy, young adult with a relatively low income should be able to find a $0 per-month health care plan using Healthcare.gov. Again, it’s the same story as the other states on our list, though Tennessee does differ in some key ways from our earlier entrants.

Next: A rural state in New England.

6. Maine

Mount Desert Island, Maine

Maine’s 16 counties offer low- or no-cost health care. | Atlantic_Adv/iStock/Getty Images

  • Though it’s isolated compared to the other states on our list, Maine manages to find its way in.

The final individual state that we’ll point out is Maine, home to Stephen King and low- or no-cost health insurance plans for young adults. In all of Maine’s 16 counties, 21, 27, and 30-year-olds should have access to these free plans. There are other states that deserve mention, however, which we’ll get to next.

Finally: The best of the rest.

The rest: North Carolina, Nebraska, and Illinois

Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

North Carolina is one of the states that come close to having every county offer premium-free plans. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • Availability isn’t state-wide in these states, but it’s close.

We’ve listed off a number of individuals states, but there are more that offer no-cost plans in every county, or almost every county. Alabama, for example, is another state in which every county offers some sort of premium-free plan. And as far as the states that come close? You can count North Carolina, Nebraska, Illinois, South Carolina, and Wisconsin among them. Be sure to check out the map for yourself, though, and, use Healthcare.gov or your state’s exchange to explore your options.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!