Say “health insurance” to a Pennsylvanian and he or she will probably say back to you, “Blue”. This isn't an insult, but a nod to the two most powerful health insurance companies within the state for the last forty years - Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The two even tried to merge in late 2008, but had to drop their plans in January 2009 due to public outcry and government worries that they would destroy any other insurance company in the state.

Are There Any Other Companies?

A Pennsylvanian can be hard-pressed to find any affordable alternative to Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Some Pennsylvanians will not even look at other companies because they know that all PA hospitals will accept Blue Cross and Blue Shield. But there are other health insurance companies in the state that are being accepted at more and more doctors, dentists and hospitals.

These companies include AARP, HealthPartners, Health America, United Health and Aetna. AARP is only available as supplemental coverage to Americans over 50 and so excludes a large portion of Pennsylvanians. Pennsylvania doctors, dentists and hospitals are required to place signs announcing what health insurance they accept in a prominent place. Many patients note the companies on the list and then contact the companies to see if they can get an individual or family plan.

Government Assistance

Many Pennsylvanians still can’t afford even what these other companies offer. If they are unemployed or recently laid off, they may be able to get low-cost or free insurance under the COBRA plan. There is a long waiting list for this program, but it is worth looking into. Also, medical Universities in large cities such as Philadelphia often have low-cost clinics. The only catch is that the doctors and dentists are medical students.

State Medicaid is also difficult to get on, but those in dire straits with less than $200 in a bank account should be accepted. These plans work with health insurance companies in the area, such as HealthPartners, in order top provide services. However, there is no or very few choice of doctors that accept Medicaid patients.