Can I Get Health Insurance Without a Job?


WRITTEN BY: Craig Sturgill

UPDATED: OCTOBER 04, 2022 | 2 MIN READ

It can be stressful to navigate health insurance coverage while unemployed. Fortunately, you still have health insurance options after job loss. While group coverage isn’t an option for those without an employer, you can still enroll in individual or family plans. Keep reading to learn more about enrolling in insurance while unemployed and how to find the best health insurance plan for your care needs and budget.

Health Care 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 also 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

You don’t need a job to enroll in an ACA-compliant plan on the health insurance Marketplace. 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

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

COBRA

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. You’ll usually have 60 days to decide whether or not to opt in. COBRA also requires that you pay the total premium, making health care 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.

Best Health Insurance Companies for Unemployed People

While reviewing your health care 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, and 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.

Unemployment and Health Insurance FAQs

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 people, 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.

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 can’t be incarcerated at the time of enrollment. You don’t have to be employed to enroll in an ACA plan.

Health Insurance for Unemployed People: A Review

Navigating job loss is stressful, but securing health insurance coverage while unemployed shouldn’t be an overwhelming experience. First, review your available options and eligibility for specific programs. Once you’ve decided where you’d like to shop for insurance, you can compare plans to find the right coverage for you during this time.