UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 18, 2023 | 2 MIN READ
Losing a job can sometimes be stressful and uncertain, especially regarding health insurance. But coverage is vital to protect yourself and your family from unexpected medical expenses.
This article will explore the options for getting health insurance without a job and provide tips for finding affordable coverage.
Why health insurance is important
Health insurance provides financial protection in case of illness or injury. Medical bills can quickly add up without them, leading to debt or bankruptcy. Medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States.
Having health insurance also ensures that you have access to necessary medical care and treatments, which can improve your overall health and well-being.
Healthcare options for unemployed people
Whether you’re unemployed, don’t qualify for work benefits, or your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, you still have some health insurance coverage options. Both family and individual plans are available from private insurers.
You don’t have to wait until an Open Enrollment period to enroll in new coverage. Job loss also qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period in the Marketplace, but you only have 60 days.
Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance
These plans are offered through the Healthcare.gov ACA Marketplace, providing coverage for individuals and families. You may be eligible for subsidies or tax credits to help lower the cost of your premiums.
Insurance companies can’t deny you because of pre-existing conditions, and Marketplace plans must cover ten essential benefits:
- Care before and after a child is born
- Emergency room visits
- Inpatient care
- Lab services
- Mental health and substance use disorder services
- Outpatient services
- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care
- Prescription drugs
- Preventative visits
- Rehabilitative and facilitative services
You also have the option of high-deductible health plans from the ACA. This helps keep monthly premiums lower.
CHIP, Medicare, and Medicaid programs
Depending on your age, current income, and whether you have children, you may meet eligibility requirements for low-cost government health insurance programs:
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): if you meet low-income criteria below the federal poverty level and you have children
- Medicare: if you’re 65 or older, a younger person with a disability, or have End-Stage Renal Disease
- Medicaid: if you meet low-income criteria below the federal poverty level
If you lose your job and had employer-sponsored health benefits, you may qualify for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage.
COBRA allows you to keep your current health benefits for a limited time. (up to 18 months), but you’ll be responsible for paying the entire premium.
You’ll usually have 60 days to decide whether or not to opt in. COBRA also requires that you pay the total premium, making healthcare costs considerably higher.
Individual private health insurance
You can buy a health insurance policy from a non-government exchange if you seek more coverage options. You’ll have more variety in your coverage options, and you can also shop for ACA-compliant plans and apply for subsidies.
Short-term health insurance
Short-term health insurance may be a good option if you’re experiencing a lapse in coverage due to job loss or ineligibility for benefits. These affordable health plans bridge gaps in your health insurance coverage until you find a longer-term solution. They’re cheaper than major health insurance premiums but with limited coverage.
These are faith-based organizations that provide a healthcare cost-sharing program for members. Members pay a monthly fee, and the organization helps cover medical expenses.
How to enroll in health insurance without a job
To enroll in health insurance without a job, you must follow the enrollment process for your chosen option.
You can apply online through the appropriate website for Medicaid and ACA plans. For COBRA, you’ll need to contact your employer’s benefits administrator.
Short-term health insurance and health-sharing ministries also have an online application process. When you apply, ensure you have all the necessary information, such as your Social Security number and income.
Tips for finding affordable health insurance without a job
Finding affordable health insurance without a job can be challenging, but there are ways to save money. Here are some tips:
- Shop around: Compare prices and coverage options from different insurance providers to find the best deal.
- Consider a higher deductible plan: A plan with a higher deductible will have lower monthly premiums but require you to pay more out-of-pocket for medical expenses.
- Take advantage of subsidies and tax credits: If you’re eligible for subsidies or tax credits, they can help lower the cost of your premiums.
- Join a health-sharing ministry: This can be a more affordable alternative to traditional health insurance.
Seek assistance from a health insurance agent: An agent can help you navigate the options and find the best coverage for your needs.
Best health insurance companies for unemployed people
While reviewing your healthcare options and shopping for coverage, you’ll find that some insurance companies consistently offer better coverage and rates than others. Before you enroll in COBRA coverage with your former employer, explore your options with the top-rated insurance companies below.
Best overall: Sidecar Health
Sidecar Health’s low-commitment plans offer low monthly premiums, and you can visit any provider. You can also enroll and cancel at any time. Sidecar Health isn’t an option in some states, so check to see if it’s available where you live.
Best catastrophic coverage: BlueCross BlueShield
BlueCross BlueShield’s policy terms vary by location, but they’re all consistent with catastrophic coverage: low premiums, free access to preventive medicine, high deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket costs.
Best dental coverage: Ambetter
Many unemployed people skip out on vision and dental add-ons to save money on their coverage. With Ambetter, you can secure dental coverage with most plans for as little as $12.
Best family coverage: Oscar
Your dependents will also be dropped when you lose your job and company-sponsored coverage. Thankfully Oscar offers cost-reducing options for family coverage, and the plans are eligible for tax credits.
Best provider network: UnitedHealthcare
As the largest provider in the U.S., UnitedHealthcare offers short-term medical plans in every state. With a network of more than 1.3 million physicians and 6,500 hospitals, there’s a strong chance your provider will accept your new insurance.
Who is eligible for Medicaid?
Eligibility for Medicaid varies by state, but generally, it’s available to low-income individuals and families. You may be eligible if you meet certain income and household size criteria and other requirements set by your state’s Medicaid program.
How do I know if I’m eligible for subsidies or tax credits for ACA plans?
You must meet specific income criteria to qualify for subsidies or tax credits for ACA plans. You can use the Healthcare.gov website to calculate your subsidy eligibility and see what plans are available in your area.
How long can I keep my COBRA coverage?
You can keep your COBRA coverage for up to 18 months after losing your job. However, you’ll need to pay the entire premium, which can be expensive. After 18 months, you’ll need to find alternative coverage.
What is the difference between short-term health insurance and ACA plans?
Short-term health insurance is designed to provide temporary coverage for individuals and families who need it. It’s typically less expensive than ACA plans, but it may not offer the same level of coverage.
ACA plans provide comprehensive coverage and are available year-round, while short-term plans are limited to specific enrollment periods.
How can a health insurance agent help me find affordable coverage?
A health insurance agent can help you navigate the options and find the best coverage. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your budget and healthcare needs and help you find discounts or other cost-saving opportunities.
Can you have insurance if you don’t work?
Unemployed people can still buy an affordable health insurance plan through the Marketplace. You may also qualify for low-cost or free coverage via Medicaid or CHIP.
What is the difference between Medicaid and Medicare?
Medicare is for people over 65, younger disabled, and dialysis patients. Medicaid is an assistance program for low-income patients’ medical expenses.
What are the pros and cons of not having health insurance?
Health insurance provides coverage for your care needs and minimizes the financial burden of a health-related emergency. However, if you’re unemployed and looking to cut costs, it can be tempting to cut your health insurance until you have a new job.
What is the most common way to get health insurance?
Most people receive their health insurance through employer-sponsored plans. Those without jobs can use the Marketplace, private health insurers, or low-cost government health programs.
What are the qualifications for Medicaid?
Low-income adults, pregnant women, children, elderly adults, and disabled people qualify for Medicaid. You must also fall below 138% of the federal poverty line. If you lose Medicaid, you have a Special Enrollment period to make changes.
What are the requirements for getting coverage through Obamacare?
To be eligible for Obamacare coverage, you must live in the United States, be a citizen, and not be incarcerated at enrollment. You don’t have to be employed to enroll in an ACA plan.
Find a quality health insurance plan while unemployed
Getting health insurance without a job can be overwhelming, but coverage is important to protect yourself and your family. Several options include Medicaid, ACA plans, COBRA, short-term health insurance, health-sharing ministries, and high-deductible health plans.
Take the time to research each option and determine which one is the best fit for your needs and budget. Consider contacting a licensed health insurance agent who can provide guidance and support throughout the process.
By exploring your options and working with a knowledgeable professional, you can find affordable health insurance coverage that gives you the peace of mind you deserve.
- Key Facts about the Uninsured Population (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- People with coverage through a job (Healthcare.gov)
- COBRA Health Coverage (Department of Labor)