What Is Child-Only Health Insurance and Where Can You Find It?

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UPDATED: 2021-09-14T20:39:13.131Z
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A child at a doctor's appointment with child-only health insurance.

Raising kids is challenging on its own, but when you factor in finding a health insurance policy, you’re opening up a whole new world of complications. If you’re curious about your options for insuring your child, you may have come across the term “child-only health insurance” without knowing exactly what it means.

Child only health insurance refers to a range of policies that provide coverage to children (under the age of 17–19, depending on the state) exclusively.

While this seems like a simple explanation, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to child only health insurance and finding a policy that’s right for your needs.

If you’re looking to make sure your child has health insurance but are uncertain about the options, keep reading. This article will take you through the children’s health insurance program in detail and show you exactly how to find it and apply.

No matter what kind of health insurance you need, you can get multiple quotes with our free search tool right now.

Who needs child-only health insurance?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 50% of Americans receive health insurance through their employers. This includes adults and children, whose health insurance premiums are paid (in part) by the company of employment and considered a “benefit.” Employer insurance plans typically cover the employee’s children and partner, but occasionally this isn’t the case.

If your child isn’t covered by an employer insurance plan, or if neither parents nor guardians have health care coverage, a child-only health insurance plan may be your best choice to keep up with doctors’ appointments and protect your child in the event of an emergency.

You could be looking for a child-only healthcare policy if you find yourself in any of the following scenarios:

  • Loss of employment
  • Working as an independent contractor
  • Loss of state benefits

No matter the situation, keeping your child insured is a priority. That’s why we’ve put together a list of options for parents seeking to learn more.

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Child-Only Health Insurance Options

There are several options when seeking out child-only health insurance, including:

  • Medicaid
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • The Affordable Care Act
  • Private Insurance Plans
  • Short Term Plans

We’ll take you through each of them, so you can have all the information necessary to pick the right plan for your child.


The best option for lower-income individuals looking to insure themselves and their children, Medicaid is a low-cost or no-cost insurance option covering adults and kids.

Medicaid programs have low or no premiums and offer total coverage either through the state-funded program itself or through a private plan paid for by the program. Though technically not a child-only health insurance plan, it is the first option you should investigate if your child is uninsured.

There are a few things to know if you’re considering applying for Medicare:

  • You Can Apply At Any Time – Some health insurance options are only available during specific enrollment periods. Fortunately, you can apply for Medicaid at any time through your state’s specific website.
  • Wait Times – Medicaid approval is typically determined within 24 hours, but some cases can stretch out to longer than 45 days. Plan accordingly and apply early to avoid waiting for your benefits to start and the opportunity to see a medical professional.
  • Factors For Eligibility – While income level is the main factor for eligibility, there are several other ways you could qualify for Medicaid. Factors like pregnancy, age, disability, and household size can affect your (and your child’s) eligibility for Medicaid.
  • Federal Guidelines, State Program – Every state in the U.S. has its own variation of Medicaid that must follow general federal guidelines. That said, some states have expanded Medicaid to cover more people, while others have a more restrictive program. The benefits and coverage of Medicaid also vary by state, so you’ll need to do some research specific to your location.

Once again, Medicaid isn’t just child-specific, but it’s available in all states and is the first place to check on your journey to finding a child-only health insurance policy.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1997 by the federal government to provide coverage to children whose families don’t qualify for Medicare but struggle to afford private healthcare.

CHIP programs are determined by the state, but there are several federal requirements that every state CHIP program must adhere to, including:

  • Well-Baby And Well-Child Visits – States are required to cover pediatric doctor visits. The typical schedule of these wellness visits varies from state to state, but all of them provide for these early doctor’s appointments and checkups.
  • Dental Coverage – Either through commercial insurance providers or directly through state-funded programs, state CHIP programs offer dental coverage for children. This includes regular dental checkups and cleanings, as well as emergency dental coverage.
  • Behavioral Health Benefits – Since the passing of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, CHIP programs are required to cover many mental health issues and addiction problems. This coverage is highly protected from state limitations and available to all CHIP beneficiaries.
  • Vaccines – Vaccines purchased through the CDC or from the private sector are covered under CHIP. This includes all age-appropriate vaccines which are typically required for admission into public school.

CHIP is a great choice for a nationally available, low-cost option for child-only health insurance. You can research your state’s CHIP Program options in more detail online and apply directly through your state’s website — often at the same time as Medicaid.

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The Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a public-private health insurance partnership that offers child-only health insurance options and comprehensive coverage for adults.

Passed into law in 2010, the ACA was created with the express purpose of providing more affordable healthcare, expanding Medicaid, and working toward innovative medical services. As a result, the ACA has made more child-only health insurance options available and easily attainable.

Let’s breakdown exactly how the ACA works:

  • The Marketplace – The marketplace is an online health insurance database specific to each state. From the marketplace, you can search through possible health insurance programs and apply directly for the child-only health insurance policy that’s right for you.
  • Types of Programs – The ACA allows you to pick the program that suits your needs. So if you’re looking for a child-only policy, you’ll have options depending on the coverage you’d like. Typically the programs are tiered from bronze to platinum, based on monthly premium costs and payment breakdowns between yourself and the insurance company.
  • Subsidies – Because the ACA is designed to make insurance more affordable to working families, subsidies are offered to applicants. If your household income is between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, you’ll qualify for premium tax credits that go toward your healthcare premium costs, effectively lowering the monthly price tag for coverage.

The drawbacks of the ACA mostly regard the timing of getting coverage. The marketplace is only open for select periods (typically in December). Though, due to special circumstances, that period can be extended.

If you’re looking for a lower-cost option for child health insurance, but you don’t qualify for CHIP or Medicaid, the ACA may be your best choice.

Private Health Insurance Plans

Private health insurance plans can be purchased outside of the ACA marketplace, directly from private insurers. Private plans are a good option for families with a comfortable income looking to find quality coverage.

There are several benefits to purchasing private insurance plans directly from providers, including:

  • No Wait – There’s no waiting for application approval, oversight, or eligibility. Private programs may be purchased at any time and can start almost immediately. If you’re looking to get a child-only health insurance plan today and hoping to get into a doctor ASAP, private insurance is the best option.
  • Range of Options – With private insurance programs, you can pick precisely the kind of coverage or health plan you’d like. From dental to vision to specialize care, private plans offer the largest variety of options, including a range of child-only policies.

Private health insurance is more expensive than previously mentioned programs, but that trade-off in premiums can mean more substantial coverage, your choice of healthcare networks, and better deductibles, including no-deductible health insurance.

Short-Term Health Plans

From 30 days to 364 days (depending on the program), short-term plans offer coverage options for the here and now. If you’re looking for child health insurance coverage for the near future but have alternate plans for the long haul, a short-term plan may be the best option.

Consider applying for a short term plan if:

  • Your long-term coverage won’t begin for some time
  • You’re looking for a quick and affordable option
  • You need a simple path to coverage today
  • Short-term plans can vary drastically in coverage, but because they only cover a short span of time, you don’t have to worry too much if they’re not the perfect child-only health insurance option. They’re only temporary.

Discover Your Child-Only Health Insurance Quote

Now that you have a handle on all the options for child-only health insurance, you’re probably ready to start scouring the web, looking for the best options to fit your situation. Actually, there’s no need to spend all that time searching, scrolling, and cross-referencing, trying to find the right plan.

You can find the best child-only health insurance plan in seconds with our unbeatable free insurance comparison tool.

We’re here to make your search for health insurance simple and fast, so you can spend less browsing the web and more time focusing on the health and well-being of your child.

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  1. https://www.medicaid.gov/state-overviews/scorecard/medicaid-magi-and-chip-application-processing-times/index.html

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