Updated: Here's the 255 counties where folks earning $30K/yr can get a FREE Gold Plan


Thanks to the American Rescue Plan & Inflation Reduction Act, residents of every state + DC who earn less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), around $20,400/yr for a single adult, is eligible for a $0-premium "Secret Platinum" plan. If they earn between 150 - 200% FPL (roughly $27,200/yr), they're eligible for a slightly less-generous "Secret Platinum" plan with premiums less than 2% of their income (just $45/month for a single adult).

As I explained here, while Silver ACA plans normally only cover around 70% of the average enrollees' medical expenses (in aggregate), the ACA's "Cost Sharing Reduction" (CSR) subsidies mean that eligible enrollees who select "CSR Silver" plans will actually have 94% of their expenses covered for the < 150% crowd and 87% of their expenses covered for the 150 - 200% crowd.

Since Gold plans cover around 80% of expenses & Platinum plans cover roughly 90%, this means that "CSR Silver" is effectively "Secret Platinum" plans for anyone earning less than 200% FPL.

OK, but what about those who earn more than 200% FPL? The ARP & IRA dramatically beefed up financial subsidies for these enrollees as well, but what if you want a lower-deductible plan without having to pay one dime in premiums?

Well, I'm happy to say that there are hundreds of counties across the United States where Gold ACA plans are available on the ACA exchanges which have similar or even lower premiums than Silver plans.

I've explained how "Silver Loading" aka "Premium Alignment" works many times before, so I'm not going to get into the hows & whys of this health insurance policy pricing strategy again here. The bottom line is that this is a Big F*cking Deal, as President Biden would put it, because it means there are bargains galore for millions of Americans.

When you combine the full price premiums being lower for Gold plans with ACA premium tax credits (which are available for the vast majority of enrollees), this means that there's hundreds of counties where folks earning $30,000/year (221% of the Federal Poverty Level) are eligible for a $0-premium Gold plan.

The data comes from this handy interactive map by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It's important to note that I'm basing this on a single 40-year old; the details will vary depending on age, household size and of course income. In addition, you may prefer a different carrier, provider network and/or drug formulary.

It's also important to note that this list only includes counties where the net premium owed after subsidies is $0. There are hundreds more counties not listed below where someone earning $30K/yr (or $35K or even $40K) could be eligible for a nominally-priced Gold plan (ie, premiums of less than $20/month or so).

Finally, in some of these counties the actual net premium may be slightly higher than $0 (generally $1 - $2/month) since the policies may include additional services which federal subsidies can't be applied to.

Also note that in New Mexico, these $0-premium, highly-comprehensive plans are actually called Turquoise instead of Gold.

Having said all of this, here's the list of counties where a single 40-yr old earning $30,000/year has at least one Gold-level ACA exchange plan available for $0/month (or close to it) in premiums:

(Updated 01/10/22: I somehow forgot about Alaska...the list has been updated to reflect this.)

Alaska (29 boroughs/territories):

  • Aleutians East
  • Aleutians West
  • Anchorage
  • Bethel
  • Bristol Bay
  • Valdez-Cordova
  • Denali
  • Dillingham
  • Fairbanks North Star
  • Haines
  • Hoonah Angoon
  • Juneau
  • Kenai Peninsula
  • Ketchikan Gateway
  • Kodiak Island
  • Kusilvak
  • Lake And Peninsula
  • Matanuska Susitna
  • Nome
  • North Slope
  • Northwest Arctic
  • Petersburg
  • Prince Of Wales Hyder
  • Sitka
  • Skagway
  • Southeast Fairbanks
  • Wrangell
  • Yakutat
  • Yukon Koyukuk

Yes, that's right: All 29 boroughs/territories in Alaska are included. This is mainly because the Federal Poverty Level in Alaska is 25% higher than in the 48 contiguous states, so $30,000/yr is actually only 177% FPL there.

California (1 county):

  • Merced County, CA

Connecticut (3 counties):

  • New London County, CT
  • Tolland County, CT
  • Windham County, CT

New Mexico (33 counties):

  • Bernalillo County, NM
  • Catron County, NM
  • Chaves County, NM
  • Cibola County, NM
  • Colfax County, NM
  • Curry County, NM
  • De Baca County, NM
  • Dona Ana County, NM
  • Eddy County, NM
  • Grant County, NM
  • Guadalupe County, NM
  • Harding County, NM
  • Hidalgo County, NM
  • Lea County, NM
  • Lincoln County, NM
  • Los Alamos County, NM
  • Luna County, NM
  • McKinley County, NM
  • Mora County, NM
  • Otero County, NM
  • Quay County, NM
  • Rio Arriba County, NM
  • Roosevelt County, NM
  • Sandoval County, NM
  • San Juan County, NM
  • San Miguel County, NM
  • Santa Fe County, NM
  • Sierra County, NM
  • Socorro County, NM
  • Taos County, NM
  • Torrance County, NM
  • Union County, NM
  • Valencia County, NM

North Dakota (10 counties):

  • Benson County, ND
  • Cavalier County, ND
  • Eddy County, ND
  • Griggs County, ND
  • Nelson County, ND
  • Pembina County, ND
  • Ramsey County, ND
  • Steele County, ND
  • Towner County, ND
  • Walsh County, ND

Oklahoma (4 counties):

  • Blaine County, OK
  • Johnston County, OK
  • Kingfisher County, OK
  • Murray County, OK

Pennsylvania (43 counties):

  • Adams County, PA
  • Armstrong County, PA
  • Beaver County, PA
  • Bedford County, PA
  • Blair County, PA
  • Cambria County, PA
  • Cameron County, PA
  • Centre County, PA
  • Clarion County, PA
  • Clearfield County, PA
  • Clinton County, PA
  • Columbia County, PA
  • Crawford County, PA
  • Cumberland County, PA
  • Dauphin County, PA
  • Elk County, PA
  • Fayette County, PA
  • Forest County, PA
  • Franklin County, PA
  • Fulton County, PA
  • Greene County, PA
  • Huntingdon County, PA
  • Indiana County, PA
  • Jefferson County, PA
  • Juniata County, PA
  • Lawrence County, PA
  • Lebanon County, PA
  • Lycoming County, PA
  • McKean County, PA
  • Mercer County, PA
  • Mifflin County, PA
  • Montour County, PA
  • Northumberland County, PA
  • Perry County, PA
  • Pike County, PA
  • Potter County, PA
  • Snyder County, PA
  • Somerset County, PA
  • Tioga County, PA
  • Union County, PA
  • Venango County, PA
  • Warren County, PA
  • York County, PA

Texas (104 counties):

  • Anderson County, TX
  • Angelina County, TX
  • Archer County, TX
  • Armstrong County, TX
  • Bailey County, TX
  • Baylor County, TX
  • Bowie County, TX
  • Briscoe County, TX
  • Brooks County, TX
  • Calhoun County, TX
  • Cameron County, TX
  • Carson County, TX
  • Cass County, TX
  • Castro County, TX
  • Cherokee County, TX
  • Childress County, TX
  • Clay County, TX
  • Cochran County, TX
  • Collingsworth County, TX
  • Crockett County, TX
  • Culberson County, TX
  • Dallam County, TX
  • Deaf Smith County, TX
  • De Witt County, TX
  • Dimmit County, TX
  • Donley County, TX
  • Duval County, TX
  • Edwards County, TX
  • Erath County, TX
  • Foard County, TX
  • Franklin County, TX
  • Frio County, TX
  • Gillespie County, TX
  • Goliad County, TX
  • Gonzales County, TX
  • Gray County, TX
  • Gregg County, TX
  • Hall County, TX
  • Hansford County, TX
  • Hardeman County, TX
  • Harrison County, TX
  • Hartley County, TX
  • Hemphill County, TX
  • Henderson County, TX
  • Hidalgo County, TX
  • Hopkins County, TX
  • Hudspeth County, TX
  • Hutchinson County, TX
  • Jackson County, TX
  • Jasper County, TX
  • Jeff Davis County, TX
  • Jim Hogg County, TX
  • Karnes County, TX
  • Kenedy County, TX
  • Kerr County, TX
  • Kinney County, TX
  • Lamar County, TX
  • La Salle County, TX
  • Lavaca County, TX
  • Lipscomb County, TX
  • Live Oak County, TX
  • Mcmullen County, TX
  • Marion County, TX
  • Maverick County, TX
  • Medina County, TX
  • Moore County, TX
  • Morris County, TX
  • Newton County, TX
  • Ochiltree County, TX
  • Oldham County, TX
  • Panola County, TX
  • Parmer County, TX
  • Polk County, TX
  • Potter County, TX
  • Presidio County, TX
  • Rains County, TX
  • Randall County, TX
  • Real County, TX
  • Red River County, TX
  • Refugio County, TX
  • Roberts County, TX
  • Rusk County, TX
  • Sabine County, TX
  • San Augustine County, TX
  • Shelby County, TX
  • Sherman County, TX
  • Smith County, TX
  • Starr County, TX
  • Swisher County, TX
  • Terrell County, TX
  • Titus County, TX
  • Upshur County, TX
  • Uvalde County, TX
  • Val Verde County, TX
  • Van Zandt County, TX
  • Victoria County, TX
  • Wheeler County, TX
  • Wichita County, TX
  • Wilbarger County, TX
  • Willacy County, TX
  • Wilson County, TX
  • Wood County, TX
  • Young County, TX
  • Zavala County, TX

Note: If you're wondering why so many counties in Texas are on this list, it's partly because Texas has the most counties of any state in the U.S., but mostly because of a remarkably pro-ACA bill which was passed unanimously by the state legislature in 2021.

Wisconsin (5 counties):

  • Clark County, WI
  • Price County, WI
  • Rusk County, WI
  • Taylor County, WI
  • Vilas County, WI

Wyoming (23 counties):

  • Albany County, WY
  • Big Horn County, WY
  • Campbell County, WY
  • Carbon County, WY
  • Converse County, WY
  • Crook County, WY
  • Fremont County, WY
  • Goshen County, WY
  • Hot Springs County, WY
  • Johnson County, WY
  • Laramie County, WY
  • Lincoln County, WY
  • Natrona County, WY
  • Niobrara County, WY
  • Park County, WY
  • Platte County, WY
  • Sheridan County, WY
  • Sublette County, WY
  • Sweetwater County, WY
  • Teton County, WY
  • Uinta County, WY
  • Washakie County, WY
  • Weston County, WY

Yes, that's right: All 23 counties in Wyoming are listed.

It's also worth noting that in 33 of the counties listed above (all 29 Alaska boroughs/territories as well as Santa Fe County, NM; Fulton County & Juniata County, PA; and Cameron County, TX), a single 40-yr old adult is still eligible for a $0-premium Gold plan if they earn as much as $35K/year.

Finally, in 16 of the Alaska boroughs/territories, they'd still be eligible for free Gold if they earned up to $40K/year.