Commercial Health Insurance

Commercial health insurance serves as the predominant method through which a significant portion of the American populace secures their healthcare benefits. This form of insurance is commonly obtained via employer-provided health insurance schemes. Individuals can also procure commercial health plans from alternative avenues such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. Distinguished by its private nature, commercial health insurance. This also known as private health insurance, is underwritten by private entities or companies, in contrast to government-backed insurance programs like Medicare or Medicaid.

Commercial Health Insurance

Leading providers of commercial health insurance encompass well-known names such as Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and Humana. Over two-thirds of the American population relies on commercial health insurance. With a substantial portion obtaining coverage primarily through their employers. Recent statistics from the U.S. Census indicate that an estimated 54% of individuals benefit from employer-sponsored health insurance plans. This highlights the widespread prevalence and importance of commercial health insurance in the United States.

How Does Commercial Health Insurance Work?

The functioning of commercial health insurance varies based on the method of coverage acquisition. For individuals obtaining health insurance through their employer, the company engages with one or more health insurance providers, offering employees a selection of plans to choose from. Conversely, those acquiring individual health insurance through the ACA marketplace have the option to select from a roster of insurance companies.

Thereby providing coverage within their geographical area. Individuals opting for individual coverage outside the marketplace are presented with a choice among plans offered by insurance companies extending such individual plans. Commercial health insurance plans operate similarly to other insurance schemes. These plans involve health insurance companies entering into agreements with healthcare providers to establish provider networks comprising healthcare professionals and facilities. The terms of these contracts dictate the remuneration received by providers for their services.


Members typically remit a health insurance premium to secure health coverage, with employers generally covering a significant portion of the premiums for those under employer-sponsored health plans. The process of receiving healthcare services typically involves paying a copay at the time of the visit to the healthcare provider. The provider then submits a medical claim to the insurance company. Following claim review, the insurer disburses the amount it deems owed to the provider, with the member subsequently billed for any outstanding balance.

Health plans commonly feature deductibles that members must meet before insurance coverage commences for healthcare services. Once the deductible is met, coinsurance typically applies, representing the percentage of the healthcare bill shared between the member and the insurance company.

This coinsurance ratio, such as 20%/80% or 30%/70%, determines the portion each party covers, with the member paying their share until reaching the plan’s out-of-pocket maximum. At this threshold, the health insurance company assumes full responsibility for covering 100% of healthcare service costs.

Where To Purchase Commercial Health Insurance

Employer-Provided Health Insurance

The majority of Americans secure health coverage through their employer’s group health insurance plans. Employers commonly cover a significant portion of health insurance premiums, rendering this option more cost-effective compared to acquiring an unsubsidized plan from the ACA marketplace or purchasing individual health insurance directly from an insurer. Employers typically collaborate with health insurance companies to offer health plans as part of their benefits package, often providing employees with a limited selection of plans, which may include high-deductible options.

ACA Marketplace Plans

Established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the ACA marketplace, also known as the ACA exchanges, enables individuals to explore available health plans and purchase insurance through This platform aims to facilitate access to health insurance for individuals and families who may not have access to employer-sponsored coverage. ACA Marketplace plans may offer premium tax credits and subsidies based on household income.

Direct Purchase of Individual Health Insurance Plans from Insurers

Individuals have the option to buy commercial health insurance directly from insurance companies, albeit at potentially higher rates than employer-sponsored plans. This approach provides flexibility in plan selection beyond those offered by employers but may not offer the same level of coverage as ACA Marketplace plans. Plans purchased directly from insurers do not qualify for premium tax credits and subsidies available for eligible ACA plans.

Short-Term Health Insurance

Short-term health insurance offers affordable premiums and temporary coverage, serving as a temporary solution to bridge health coverage gaps, such as during job transitions. These plans typically limited to one year in most states (with potential extensions in some cases), may not cover certain services like maternity care, prescription drugs, or mental health care. While short-term plans are not a long-term health insurance solution, they can be suitable for individuals anticipating minimal medical needs soon.

Catastrophic Health Insurance

Catastrophic health insurance serves as a safety net for individuals fewer than 30 and those experiencing financial hardships, like homelessness. Available through the ACA marketplace, these plans feature low premiums but high deductibles, offering comprehensive coverage similar to standard ACA plans, including essential health benefits. Catastrophic plans have substantial deductibles but cover all healthcare costs once the deductible is met without requiring coinsurance, distinguishing them from traditional health insurance plans.

What falls outside the scope of Commercial Health Insurance?

Numerous government-backed health insurance programs exist, such as Medicare and Medicaid, which do not fall under the category of commercial health insurance. Additionally, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and TRICARE are examples of public health insurance plans sponsored by the government.

Eligibility for these programs varies:

  • Medicare caters to individuals aged 65 and older, younger individuals disabled for a minimum of 24 months, and those with end-stage renal disease.
  • Medicaid and CHIP target low-income individuals.
  • TRICARE is designed for both active-duty and retired military personnel.

Common Types of Commercial Health Insurance

Commercial health insurance plans, whether obtained through an employer or the ACA marketplace, typically fall into one of three categories based on their benefit design. The design of a plan determines whether you have access to out-of-network care, the need for a primary care provider, and referrals to see specialists. Here are the three primary types of health insurance plans:

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Plan:

PPO plans offer the most flexibility, allowing you to receive out-of-network care without requiring you to designate a primary care provider or obtain referrals for specialists. With a PPO, you have the freedom to see any doctor, even outside the plan’s network, although out-of-network care may incur higher costs. PPOs are typically associated with higher premiums compared to other plans.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Plan:

HMO plans are structured differently, requiring you to choose a primary care physician within the network. In most cases, you must consult this primary care physician for all non-emergency health issues and obtain referrals to see specialists within the HMO network. While HMOs offer lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs, they limit choices compared to PPOs.

Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) Plan

The Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan mandates that you utilize the plan’s network except in emergencies, sharing similarities with an HMO in this aspect. However, an EPO does not mandate referrals for specialist visits, making it akin to a PPO in this regard. EPO premiums typically align closely with HMO costs.

Average Cost of Commercial Health Insurance

Commercial health insurance costs can vary based on different factors, such as age, plan type, and income. The average monthly cost of health insurance on the ACA marketplace for a 40-year-old person is $516 for a PPO, $438 for an HMO, and $490 for an EPO.

Employer-sponsored plans are often more affordable than ACA Marketplace plans, with average monthly premiums for single coverage being $116 for a PPO and $100 for an HMO, and for family coverage being $536 for a PPO and $438 for an HMO. The average monthly premium for a bronze ACA health insurance plan is $420 for a 40-year-old, increasing to $549 for a silver plan and $713 for a gold plan.

Health insurance costs per month for a 30-year-old individual are around $466 for an exclusive provider organization, $427 for an HMO, and $512 for a PPO. Household income plays a significant role in determining costs, with the ACA marketplace offering premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies based on income, potentially saving money on premiums and out-of-pocket costs for those eligible.

How to Purchase Commercial Health Insurance

There are several avenues through which you can acquire commercial health insurance:

Employer-Sponsored Coverage:

If your employer provides health insurance, this is often the most cost-effective option available to you.

ACA Marketplace:

Utilize the ACA marketplace on to explore and compare available plans in your region. By providing details such as household income and family size, the marketplace can offer cost estimates, considering potential premium tax credits and subsidies. Only ACA plans qualify for these cost savings based on income, and the marketplace is where you can access catastrophic health insurance plans if eligible.

Direct Purchase from insurers:

You can also explore individual health insurance plans directly from insurance companies. While this may offer more choices than the ACA marketplace, these plans may not meet the coverage requirements of marketplace plans. Additionally, plans bought directly from insurers do not qualify for ACA subsidies or premium tax credits.

Short-Term Health Plans:

For those seeking temporary and budget-friendly coverage, purchasing a short-term health plan directly from an insurance company is an option. It’s important to note that these plans do not provide comprehensive coverage like standard health insurance plans and may involve higher out-of-pocket costs for healthcare services. Consider this when evaluating short-term health plan options.