Most Affordable Gold Health Plans in Major US Cities

Minneapolis, MN: Best Value Under the ACA


Study: Finding the Best Value For Individual Coverage Under Obamacare in Major Cities


After collecting data for nationwide individual health insurance plans under Obamacare, known as “qualified health plans,” we reviewed the results to find the cities offering the most affordable gold plans. Gold-level plans cover 80 percent of medical costs, leaving the policyholder responsible for 20 percent.


With lower, or sometimes no deductibles, gold plans offer copays for various services, including office visits with primary care physicians and specialists, hospital care, prescriptions and more. You can’t find this sort of coverage with bronze and silver plans, as their premiums are lower, deductibles are higher, and coverage is considerably less.


For this study, we ran quotes for 30-year-old, non-smoking residents in 50 of the nation’s densest cities. Additionally, we tried to find plans with a deductible around $2000, which wasn’t always available in certain markets.


We made sure each plan on our list included copays for office visits, prescriptions, and preferably other services such as emergency care — all the makings for a worthwhile policy. It was refreshing to see that on the gold level, copays for numerous services are offered on plans in most every major city we surveyed.


Our results showed a far different look to the individual market under the Affordable Care Act from last year’s survey of private health plan premiums.


Why Gold Plans?


In previous studies, we’ve looked for the best buys on comprehensive plans. Plans that cover what you need them to, and don’t leave you on the hook for a huge bill when you receive care.


One of the biggest mistakes people make when buying health insurance is settling on what they think is the cheapest plan by looking at the monthly premium. In terms of the health law’s qualified health plan tiers, this comes in on the bronze or silver level.


These plans come with high deductibles, and often coverage that doesn’t even start until you meet that, say, $5000 deductible. Essentially, you’re uninsured until you pay for $5000 worth of care. Doesn’t seem so cheap anymore, does it?


On the gold level, insurers are required to cover 80 percent of costs, so they’re more apt to let you pay a flat $20 to see the doctor, or $100 to go to the hospital. Most people prefer this predictable structure to wondering how much they’ll have to pay for healthcare.


Because of their design, gold plans are the best value available on the individual market, if you’re considering qualified health plans (QHPs) under the ACA. QHPs are a product of the health law, establishing a few basic guidelines for insurers to follow in order to provide fair coverage.


Results: Most Affordable Gold Plans in the 50 Biggest Cities


Rank City Premium Carrier Deductible
1 Minneapolis, MN $157 PreferredOne $2000
2 Louisville, KY $190 Humana $2500
3 Detroit, MI $193 Humana $2500
4 Wichita, KS $193 CoventryOne $1750
5 Tucson, AZ $201 Humana $2500
6 Austin, TX $206 Humana $2500
7 Memphis, TN $214 Humana $2500
8 Portland, OR $215 Health Net $1300
9 Washington, DC $218 Kaiser $1000
10 Jacksonville, FL $218 CoventryOne $1750
11 Phoenix, AZ $221 Humana $2500
12 Mesa, AZ $221 Humana $2500
13 Long Beach, CA $224 Health Net $0
14 El Paso, TX $226 BCBSTX $1500
15 Las Vegas, NV $235 Health Plan of Nevada $1000
16 Albuquerque, NM $242 BCBSNM $1500
17 Los Angeles, CA $245 Health Net $0
18 Chicago, IL $249 BCBSIL $1000
19 Houston, TX $249 Humana $2500
20 San Antonio, TX $249 Humana $2500
21 Colorado Springs, CO $252 Humana $2500
22 Atlanta, GA $253 Humana $2500
23 Miami, FL $258 CoventryOne $1750
24 Denver, CO $258 Kaiser $1000
25 Tulsa, OK $258 BCBSOK $1000
26 Cleveland, OH $262 Kaiser $1000
27 Kansas City, MO $263 CoventryOne $1750
28 Oklahoma City, OK $264 BCBSOK $1000
29 Philadelphia, PA $267 Independence Blue Cross $0
30 Raleigh, NC $270 CoventryOne $1250
31 San Diego, CA $272 HealthNet $0
32 Omaha, NE $272 CoventryOne $1750
33 Baltimore, MD $273 Kaiser $1000
34 Nashville, TN $274 Humana $2500
35 Virginia Beach, VA $289 Optima Health $1000
36 Dallas, TX $290 BCBSTX $1500
37 Fresno, CA $295 Blue Shield of California $0
38 Fort Worth, TX $296 BCBSTX $1000
39 Arlington, TX $296 BCBSTX $1000
40 Seattle, WA $308 Premera Blue Cross $1500
41 Oakland, CA $331 Blue Shield of California $0
42 Boston, MA $332 Fallon Community Health Plan $2000
43 Sacramento, CA $347 Blue Shield of California $0
44 Columbus, OH $364 UnitedHealthCare $1000
45 San Jose, CA $364 Anthem Blue Cross $0
46 Milwaukee, WI $385 WPS $2000
47 San Francisco, CA $390 Blue Shield of California $0
48 Charlotte, NC $398 Cigna $1250
49 Indianapolis, IN $419 Anthem BlueCross BlueShield $1000
50 New York, NY $519 Empire BCBS $1000




Of the 50 largest cities, the best price for a solid plan was found in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a state that implemented statewide health reform efforts even before the ACA. The most reasonable gold plan in the city cost $157 per month from PreferredOne, a regional carrier in the Midwest.


With a $2000 deductible and copays for the majority of services an average 30-year-old applicant might need, this individual policy shows that plans off the exchange can provide excellent value, even without subsidies. It just depends on where you live.


New York City remains the most expensive major city for health insurance premiums at $519 per month. It’s difficult to imagine many people would be able to afford this coverage, even if their income is too high for the premium tax credit on the exchange.

The private market in Texas is one of the more reasonable ones under the health law, and Louisville, Kentucky remains an inexpensive city for individual plans even after the ACA’s implementation.