Health insurance is largely a state regulated industry. While state insurance departments or commissions may have to implement certain federal mandates, each state has the ability to create its own laws regarding how health insurance companies do business and the types of products insurers can offer. Understanding your state's laws can help you find affordable health insurance.

Select the right health plan

The first step to finding affordable health insurance in your state is to determine the type of coverage that would best fit your needs. Health insurance plans come in several different forms, including:

  • Indemnity plans or traditional, Fee-For-Service (FFS) health insurance.
  • Managed care plans, such as an HMO, POS or PPO.
  • High-deductible plans, which are often combined with Health Savings Accounts (HSA).

When comparing your health insurance options, it is important to look beyond the premium amount and consider other relevant costs like deductibles and co-payments. You should also review covered services to ensure that the plan you select provides coverage for the benefits you need.

Affordable health insurance options in your state

In all states, health insurance benefits are available through group policies or individual policies. Group policies, such as those provided by employers, generally offer the most affordable health insurance. If you don't have access to coverage through a group plan, health insurance may be purchased on the individual market.

For those who need to purchase individual health insurance, different states offer a range of health plan options to their residents. For example, some states permit for the sale of short-term health insurance that can be used for temporary medical coverage. Other states allow self-employed individuals to be classified as a "group of one" so that entrepreneurs can purchase group coverage. States may also require an extension of COBRA coverage or mandate that health insurance companies cover certain treatments such as those for infertility.

For those who don't have access to group insurance and who have pre-existing conditions that make it impossible to find coverage on the individual market, every state offers a high-risk pool. While some states have maintained high-risk pools for years, the Affordable Care Act requires all states to offer these plans until 2014 when health insurance exchanges, a marketplace for individual and small group health insurance, will go into place in all states.

Learn more about health insurance in your state

Your state's insurance department or commission can be an invaluable resource for more information about health insurance options in your state. Many state departments of insurance have interactive websites with consumer-friendly information like buyer's guides, health plan report cards and consumer protection tips. These sites can also be your source for information regarding high-risk pools.

You may also contact your state's department of insurance by phone. Many states maintain consumer hotlines that you can call for general information regarding state laws or to check a health insurance company's complaint record. States may also offer consumer advocacy services to help mediate disputes over claim denials.