Public health plans vary by state, with options for children, families, and individuals who need coverage but either can’t afford it, don’t have access to a plan through their employer, or have been declined.

While many may think that the programs our tax dollars support such as Medicaid and Medicare are reserved for the very sick and very poor, you may be surprised what programs exist to help those who fall in a less extreme category.

Health insurance is obviously very expensive, and not everyone can squeeze it into their budget, unfortunately. But when it comes to getting an exam or experiencing a medical emergency, your budget will thank you for having coverage and not causing a plummet into debt.

State Risk Pool

Depending on your situation, there are various solutions. If you have been declined on the individual market or are HIPAA-eligible, you can qualify for your state’s risk pool or PCIP if you have a pre-existing condition.

Exchanges

If you’re just a normal, healthy adult who doesn’t meet the poverty guidelines for Medicaid yet still can’t manage paying for an individual plan, you can look at other options in your state, and hold out until the Exchanges begin in 2014.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

In Minnesota, for example, there is a program called MinnesotaCare, which covers adults and children whose income is over the Medicaid limit. In every state, there is a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to help young people up to age 19 (sometimes 21) get affordable coverage.

Health Clinics For Underinsured & Low-Income

Additionally, in every state there are health clinics who offer care for free or on a sliding scale to accommodate the uninsured and low-income.

Based on your individual needs and state of residence, government-sponsored programs for medical coverage will vary in availability, but there should be one that fits your criteria. More options will open up in the future thanks to health care reform for these in-between groups and individuals who have trouble getting insured.

Discover the public health plan options in your state here, and protect yourself and your family.