Losing your work can result in severe financial hardship, especially if you also lose your health insurance coverage. If you’ve lost coverage, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period on the Health Insurance Marketplace.
This means you won’t have to wait until November’s yearly open enrollment period to apply for coverage. You may also be eligible for the premium tax credit.
How to Get Health Insurance Without a Job
Let’s check out how to get health insurance without a job.
1. Start as Soon as Possible
Even before you leave a job, there’s nothing wrong with talking to those helpful folks in HR about your health insurance benefits and what will happen if—or when—you leave.
You can find out how much COBRA coverage will cost, then use the info to decide whether to stick with COBRA or go it alone in the marketplace.
2. Gather Important Details and Paperwork
When you’re all set to talk COBRA, marketplace, or even Medicaid, here’s the information you should have ready: your income, total household income, Social Security number, pay stubs, and tax records.
Also, information about your current (or recently ended) health insurance plan, and the number of dependents in your household.
3. Consult with an Independent Insurance Agent
An independent insurance agent will not only find you the greatest package for your budget and demands, but they will also be familiar with your state’s rules.
Some states require you to apply for government-sponsored health insurance through the federal marketplace. Others have a state-based marketplace and determine their eligibility limits. Isn’t that confusing?
That is why having an agent on your side is beneficial.
4. Make Good Use of Your Emergency Money
So, how much does health insurance cost if you don’t have a job? That response can vary, as seen by the possibilities above. However, regardless of how you choose to obtain coverage, an emergency fund is always necessary!
It’s much more critical if you’re unemployed and seeking health insurance. Your emergency fund relieves you of the anxiety of out-of-pocket expenses associated with unexpected health visits and periodic checks.
Having a fully stocked emergency fund (3-6 months of costs saved up) will allow you to pay for insurance during a gap time without having to worry about it.
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- Tools such as the federal or state health insurance exchanges make it easier to find insurance that is not provided by an employer.
- You may be able to keep your job-based health insurance under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), but it may be more expensive.
- Additional assistance may be available via Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- If your income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line, you may be eligible for a premium tax credit.
Health Insurance Options If You’re Unemployed
If you’re recently unemployed, you might lose your employer-provided health coverage. This can leave you at risk of taking on a financial burden if you need health care while you’re not insured.
Medical bills can stack up quickly. But having a plan if you lose your coverage can help. And a 2022 survey shows that only 4 in 10 Americans have the savings set aside to pay for a $1,000 expense.
1. Short-Term Health Insurance
Short-term health insurance (also known as temporary or limited-term health insurance) is intended to cover health crises and interruptions in coverage for a limited time. It’s not ideal, but if you’re contemplating a career transition, it can work miracles.
For example, suppose you’ve signed the Great Resignation and won’t be starting a new work for a few months. Perhaps you retired early and require coverage until you reach the age of eligibility for Medicare. Your best chance may be short-term health insurance.
Here are a couple of things to know about short-term health insurance policies:
A. They do not cover everything:
These policies do not provide the same level of coverage as typical medical insurance policies. Expect to be denied coverage for maternity care, mental health treatments, preventive care, or prior diseases.
They will, however, pay some inpatient and outpatient operations, emergency department visits, and critical care charges. That’s not to be sniffed at!
B. They may be more costly:
Short-term policy deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are often greater than in standard plans. But keep in mind that the operative word here is “temporary.” The bright side is that rates are often low, and coverage may begin within 24 hours.
2. Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
That’s quite a mouthful. It’s no surprise that we name it COBRA. COBRA insurance allows you to continue your employer-based coverage for a certain time after you leave your employment. Isn’t that a huge breath of relief?
But, before you totally exhale, consider the following pros and cons:
Employers are required by federal law to enable employees to maintain their healthcare plan for 18 months after they leave their employment. (If you qualify, this can occasionally be extended to 36 months.)1
The disadvantage of COBRA is that you will be responsible for the entire cost of your health insurance premium. Your employer will no longer assist you.
According to that calculation, it will be more costly. When you depart, talk to your employer about your new COBRA cost.
If the expensive COBRA rates are too much for your budget, you may always look into the government’s health insurance marketplace.
3. Marketplace Health Insurance
If you have just lost your work or have left your company for whatever reason, you may be able to obtain coverage via the government-run healthcare marketplace.
That’s significant if your family relies on that healthcare! You just must apply within 60 days of losing your employer’s coverage.
Here are a few tips for obtaining health insurance through the marketplace:
- Look for government subsidies to help with the growing costs of health insurance. You may be eligible for Medicaid and/or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) tax credits.
- If you and your family are healthy and don’t see the doctor too often, consider a high-deductible plan. Your monthly rates will be reduced, and you will be eligible to open a Health Savings Account (HSA).
4. Medicaid and/or CHIP
Medicaid assists persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women, children, and low-income households. It presently covers over 80 million Americans and is available to individuals who qualify in all states.2
If you qualify for Medicaid, it may lower your monthly premiums as well as other expenditures like as copayments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses.
Medicaid eligibility is determined by your income and household size, not your employment situation.
Medicare and Medicaid may sound similar, but they are not. Medicare is a health insurance program for anyone over the age of 65.
It is also open to those under the age of 65 who have been receiving Social Security disability payments for more than two years.3
Medicare also covers those with renal failure and ALS, often known as Lou Gehrig’s illness.4,5
If you are eligible for Medicare, your coverage will be divided into two parts: Part A (hospital charges) and Part B (medical expenditures), as well as Part D (prescription pharmaceuticals).
To make matters even more complicated, Medicare Advantage (also known as Part C) combines them all. To find out if you qualify, go to Medicare.gov.
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6. Private Individual Plan
You may also get health insurance directly from health insurance providers or through an independent insurance agent. The coverage may not be as strong as insurance available via the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, but it will suffice in an emergency.
7. Healthcare Cost Sharing
Healthcare cost-sharing programs are one common alternative. These operate similarly to health insurance, with monthly premiums and predefined coverage lengths.
Instead of an insurance company paying your medical fees, other participants send you the money you require when you utilize medical services.
8. Spouse’s or Parents’ Health Insurance Plan
We saved the best for last. That’s because joining your spouse’s plan isn’t always the most cost-effective alternative.
However, if you’re jobless and married, and your spouse gets health insurance via their job, you may generally be added to their coverage. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about assisting each other?
You have another alternative, young people! If you are under the age of 26, you should consider returning to your parents’ insurance coverage.6 You may not want to, but it may be the best option for the season.
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