Health insurance is often gained through your employer or government programs such as Medicaid or Medicare. However, if your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, or you don’t qualify for the latter, you can still purchase health insurance from Iowa’s insurance exchange.
While cheaper plans may be tempting to purchase in order to save on costs, they come with high out-of-pocket expenses, which may drain your savings in the case of a major medical emergency. Plans with more expensive premiums often come with a lower out-of-pocket max, which is especially beneficial for those who have a lot of medical needs.
To cater to various ages, income levels and needs, MoneyGeek identified the cheapest plans in Iowa for different plan types.
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Iowa by Metal Tier
In every state, health insurance options are divided up into tiers. In Iowa’s marketplace, each tier has varying degrees of premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. The lower the premium, the higher the out-of-pocket expenses involved and vice versa.
The state of Iowa has four metal tiers: Catastrophic, Expanded Bronze, Silver and Gold. The average cost of health insurance in Iowa for each metal tier for a sample profile of a 40-year-old is as follows:
- Catastrophic: $298 per month
- Expanded Bronze: $405 per month
- Silver: $528 per month
- Gold: $523 per month
In most states, Gold plans are more costly than Silver plans. However, each state has its own marketplace where each insurer can set its own prices, and sometimes you'll see an anomaly like this where a Gold policy can actually save you a few dollars over a Silver plan.
Check out the table below to find the cheapest plan by the monthly premium for each metal tier.
For individuals with a low income, health insurance in Iowa can be cheaper thanks to cost-sharing reductions (CSR). These are only applicable for Silver plans but can make them a great deal, as they can help reduce deductibles and make the plan more affordable. Some people can even get Gold-level coverage for Silver-tier prices.
MoneyGeek gathered data on plans based on a sample profile of a 40-year-old male for all types of plans available in Iowa. This includes HMOs and EPOs, with the most common being the former.
Cheapest Health Insurance in Iowa by Metal Tier
Scroll for more
- Metal TierPlanCompanyMonthly CostOOP Max
- CatastrophicInspire by Medica CatastrophicMedica$273$8,550
- Expanded BronzeWellmark Bronze HDHP HMOWellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc.$313$6,900
- SilverOscar Silver SaverOscar Insurance Company$485$8,550
- GoldWellmark Gold Modified HMOWellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc.$447$5,250
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Iowa by Age and Metal Tier
Age is a significant factor that affects the cost of health insurance. For instance, the cost of health insurance in Iowa for a Silver-tier plan for a 26-year-old costs an average of around $423 per month, while it costs an average of $1,121 for a 60-year old.
Health Insurance Costs in Iowa by Age and Metal Tier
As you age, your health insurance premiums will go up. This is because younger individuals have a lower chance of encountering health problems compared to those who are older. Given this, it may be tempting to stick to lower-costing plans, such as Expanded Bronze plans, but it involves paying more out-of-pocket if you have unexpected high medical costs.
Data gathered by MoneyGeek is based on sample ages but doesn’t take into account the combination of income and age, which can also greatly affect your premiums. For instance, health insurance in the Iowa marketplace can be cheaper for older people as they can qualify for tax premiums or other discounts.
Take a look at the table below to check out the different rates between varying metal tiers and ages. If you’re still wondering how to get health insurance in Iowa and which tier is the best for you, read our guide on health insurance in the state.
Cheapest Health Insurance in Iowa by Age And Metal Tier
Sort by Metal Tier:
Sort by Age:
Scroll for more
- PlanCompanyMonthly Rate
- CatastrophicEPOOscar Insurance Company$220
Compare Health Insurance Rates
Ensure you're getting the best rate for your health insurance. Compare quotes from the top insurance companies.
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Iowa by County
Insurance premiums are affected by your location — the state you live in and your respective rating area. Each state is divided into rating areas, which insurers use to calculate premiums.
The state of Iowa has seven rating areas and 99 counties, with the most populous being Polk County. The most affordable Silver-tiered plan in this rating area is Inspire by Medica Silver Copay by Medica, which has an average monthly premium of $472 for a 40-year-old.
Take a look at the table below to find the most affordable plan in Iowa in your county for all metal tiers.
The rates collected by MoneyGeek were based on a sample profile of a 40-year-old male residing in Iowa who wants to purchase health insurance in that county.
Cheapest Health Insurance Plans in Iowa by County
Sort by county:
Scroll for more
- Metal TierCompanyCheapest PlanMonthly Premium
- BooneCatastrophicMedicaInspire by Medica Catastrophic$285
- CalhounCatastrophicMedicaInspire by Medica Catastrophic$285
- CarrollCatastrophicMedicaInspire by Medica Catastrophic$285
- GreeneCatastrophicMedicaInspire by Medica Catastrophic$285
- GrundyCatastrophicMedicaInspire by Medica Catastrophic$285
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Iowa With High Out-of-Pocket Maxes
Young Iowa residents who have minimal healthcare costs but still want coverage can opt to get a low-cost plan with high out-of-pocket maximums. While you may be paying less per month, a policyholder will have to pay more in case of frequent doctor visits in a given year or a medical emergency.
Those looking for cheap health insurance in Iowa can opt for Medica, which offers the lowest-costing plan in the state for a high out-of-pocket maximum — Inspire by Medica Catastrophic — at an average of $219 per month for a 26-year-old.
Keep in mind that MoneyGeek classifies a high out-of-pocket maximum as one that is $8,250 or higher.
Medica’s plan is in the Catastrophic tier — which means only certain people are eligible. Only those under the age of 30 or who apply for a “hardship exemption” can get this plan.
The Cheapest Health Insurance in Iowa With Low Out-of-Pocket Maximums
If you expect to have (or already have) higher medical costs than most, it may help to get a plan with high premiums and low out-of-pocket maximums. This way, you can reach the limit sooner and get your costs covered by insurance at an earlier rate.
The best health insurance in Iowa for individuals looking for low out-of-pocket maximums is the Wellmark Gold Modified HMO by Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., which costs an average of $447 per month for a 40-year-old.
Note that MoneyGeek considers a low out-of-pocket maximum to fall under the $4,250 threshold. However, this plan has an out-of-pocket max of $5,250, which is the lowest in the state with the cheapest premiums.
Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc.
The Wellmark Gold Modified HMO plan falls under the Gold tier, the highest available option in the state. This means that it comes with expensive monthly premiums but has low out-of-pocket maximums, letting policyholders who have frequent medical expenses get covered sooner.
Cheapest EPO/HMO Health Insurance Plan in Iowa
The type of health insurance plan you get is dependent on your unique needs and preferences. In Iowa, residents can get HMO or EPO plans — with the former being the most common.
Health maintenance organization (HMO) plans are the more affordable of the two, but they come with limitations. For instance, you must stick to your provider network and need a referral to see a specialist. Exclusive provider organization (EPO) plans, on the other hand, will not always require a referral to see a specialist, but will still require you to stay within the provider network — with an exemption if there’s an emergency.
The most affordable health insurance in Iowa within the Silver tier for all types of plans are:
- HMO: The Wellmark Silver Modified HMO by Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. at an average cost of $493 per month for a 40-year-old
- EPO: The Oscar Silver Saver by Oscar Insurance Company at an average cost of $485 per month for a 40-year-old
Cheapest Plan in Iowa With an HSA
Iowa residents who are in good health and have minimal healthcare expenses can opt for plans with a health savings account (HSA) option. They are more affordable plans where contributions are tax-free, letting you build up your savings for medical expenses or even non-medical expenses.
The cheapest and best health insurance in Iowa for all metal tiers with an HSA option is the following:
- Expanded Bronze: The Wellmark Bronze HDHP HMO plan by Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., costing an average of $313 per month for a 40-year-old.
Note that plans with HSA options usually come with high deductibles, which can drain your savings in the event of any major medical costs.
What to Know About Health Insurance in Iowa
The rates gathered by MoneyGeek are based on data from Iowa’s private health insurance marketplace — but you may find even cheaper premiums once you actually apply. This is because you may qualify for certain discounts or even find that you’re eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, which are cheaper options than anything on the private marketplace.
Private Health Insurance on the Iowa Marketplace
Health insurance in any state’s private marketplace is broken up into metal tiers. This does not determine the quality of medical care. Instead, each tier dictates the split of costs between an insurer and a policyholder.
In Iowa, there are four metal tiers: Catastrophic, Expanded Bronze, Silver and Gold. With every tier, the monthly premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums vary greatly.
- Catastrophic: This plan has the lowest premiums and the highest out-of-pocket expenses — and not everyone can qualify for it. Only those who are under the age of 30 or have a “hardship” exemption are eligible for this plan. While it is the cheapest, this may not provide the most value for those who qualify for cost-sharing reductions or premium tax credits.
- Expanded Bronze: The Expanded Bronze tier is the cheapest and most widely available option for anyone in the marketplace. It also has low premiums — but not as low as Catastrophic plans — and high deductibles. This plan often requires the coverage of at least one “major medical service” before the deductible is met, such as laboratory tests or emergency services.
- Silver: Silver plans offer the most balance between monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. It also offers the most opportunity for savings, as those who qualify for premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions can get the most out of this plan. The split in costs between an insurer and a policyholder with this plan is typically 70/30.
- Gold: Gold plans are the most expensive option in the state — they have the highest premiums and the lowest out-of-pocket maximums. Individuals who visit the doctor often or have a number of prescription drugs will benefit the most from this, as they can quickly reach their maximums and get covered by the insurer sooner.
It’s possible to get cheap health insurance in Iowa based on your income level alone. If your income falls between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, you may qualify for premium tax credits. This applies to a two-person household making between $17,420 and $69,680 a year in Iowa. To find out if you are eligible for premium tax credits and how much you can save, take a look at Healthcare.gov’s calculator.
Iowa’s private health insurance marketplace typically has an enrollment period when residents can apply for or even disenroll from health insurance. This usually falls between November and December, but COVID-19 has expanded the enrollment dates in order to provide residents with more flexibility.
Individuals whose income falls between $24,040 and $43,550 per year, or is between 138% and 250% of the federal poverty level, can qualify for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs). This is only available for those applying for Silver plans and can help lower deductibles, copayments or coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums. The savings that this can grant may even provide a policyholder with Gold-tier coverage should they qualify for these deductions.
Medicaid in Iowa
For individuals who have low income, health insurance in Iowa can be attained through Medicaid. Medicaid is a government assistance program that can help make health insurance cheap or even free. As Iowa is a Medicaid expansion state, residents can qualify based on income alone — this is if your income falls under 138% of the federal poverty level.
Medicare in Iowa
Residents of Iowa who are 65 or older or have a qualifying disability or illness may be eligible for Medicare. This is another government assistance program similar to Medicaid, but still requires some payment for coverage. Regardless, this is a more affordable option compared to health insurance plans on the private marketplace that can help cover certain costly medical expenses.
Medicare’s coverage is divided into parts that each cover certain medical services, namely:
- Part A: This covers care you get during hospital stays, hospice care or care from a skilled nursing facility.
- Part B: This covers outpatient services, such as doctor visits, medical diagnostic tests, medical supplies or preventive services.
- Part D: This covers prescription drugs that you may need, along with any shots or vaccines.
MoneyGeek's research is based on estimates, and the cheapest plan for you will depend on your individual needs and characteristics. This analysis is intended to serve as a guide and no single plan is guaranteed to be the cheapest in Iowa for you
MoneyGeek collected plans and premiums for health insurance in Iowa from the Health Insurance Exchange Public Use Files (Exchange PUFs) for all available metal tiers and across several age groups.
Health insurance premiums on this page are an estimate and exclude potential premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies that users may be eligible for.
About Mark Fitzpatrick