Ensuring You're Covered While Out of Work
How to Get Health Insurance Without a Job
Whether you're newly unemployed or you've lost your job, nothing is exciting about not having a source of income. Since one of the perks of having employment is the health benefit that comes with it, you're probably at a crossroads about how to get health insurance without a job.
Being without a job can be devastating but being without a health insurance plan is even worse. But the good news is that you can still get health insurance while unemployed. This article walks you through the best health coverage options to consider.
Short-Term Health Insurance Plan
One way to navigate health insurance without a job is to opt for short-term insurance plans. Also known as a temporary or limited-term insurance plan, this type of insurance covers health emergencies. And as its name implies, it's for a short period — usually between 30 and 90 days.
A perk of this insurance plan is that it can cover your health while you search for a new job. With a window of three months, this can cover lapses in coverage. Similarly, if you retire early and are yet to meet the Medicare qualification age, short-term health insurance coverage is a great option.
However, this insurance package isn't perfect. First, temporary health insurance plans are more expensive than traditional plans and you'll pay out of pocket. In addition, the insurance doesn't cover all your health needs. This is because it doesn't offer the same benefits as a traditional medical insurance plan. So, things like maternity care and mental health services are not covered.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is another health insurance option to consider when out of a job. Like the short-term insurance plan, COBRA offers health coverage for a limited period. However, the plan allows you to extend your employer-based coverage after you've left the job. Hence, the reason COBRA is called a continuation of health coverage.
Under federal law, your employer must allow you to keep your healthcare plan for 18 to 36 months — depending on the company. However, you want to check what your company offers. On the downside, COBRA is expensive, as you'll cover the cost of your health insurance premium with your money. This is because your employer's contribution ends once your work contract is terminated. So, it's advisable to find out the cost of your insurance premium to compare with other coverage options before opting for COBRA.
Marketplace Health Coverage
Since COBRA may be expensive, a viable health insurance alternative is the government-owned health insurance marketplace. The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act (the Affordable Care Act — ACA) founded the federal health marketplace. As its name implies, the insurance marketplace aims to make healthcare insurance accessible and affordable for all Americans. States like Washington D.C. run their health insurance marketplaces for more accessibility.
In other words, you can shop for a health insurance plan and enroll in a suitable one from the various marketplace insurance options. If you have a family, a pro tip for marketplace insurance is to consider high-deductible plans to cover you and your family. This will help reduce your monthly premium costs, especially if you and your family don't visit the doctor often.
The best part is that you may qualify for a premium tax credit if your income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line (FPL). With the refundable credit, you can reduce your monthly payment or premium. However, only U.S. citizens residing in the country are eligible for this health insurance plan. You also need to apply for a marketplace insurance plan within 60 days of losing your job or employer’s coverage.
As the name suggests, Medicaid is a medical aid targeted at people with disabilities, pregnant women, children, the elderly and low-income households. The plan currently covers over 85 million Americans and residents of all U.S. states. Medicaid insurance is jointly owned by the federal and state governments but is administered by each state to residents that qualify — per the federal laws.
With a Medicaid plan, you can cut down on your monthly premiums and cover costs like deductibles, co-payments and other bills you'd originally be responsible for. Medicaid is free in most states. However, some states can charge you a share of the cost. You must qualify for Medicaid to enjoy its benefits. The good thing is that your eligibility depends on your income and household size, not your job status.
Medicaid income levels are based on the U.S. federal poverty level (FPL). To check how your income compares to the government's FPL, review the information provided at healthcare.gov. If your household income is higher than the FPL but not enough for private insurance, you can register your children for a Medicaid program called Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This is a low-cost health coverage for children aged 18 and below.
Medicare is a little different from Medicaid. Like Medicaid, Medicare is administered by the government, but the benefactors are people over 65 years. It is also available to citizens below 65 years who have received Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits for over 2 years.
Unlike Medicaid, you don't have to worry about your income to enjoy Medicare benefits. You are first eligible to sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. But Medicare can be complicated at first. This is because the coverage is divided into Part A (for hospital bills), Part B (for medical costs) and Part D (for prescription drugs). However, you can get a Part C plan to combine all parts, provided you qualify.
Private Healthcare Plan
If you can afford it, you can buy health insurance plans from insurance companies. Alternatively, you can work with an independent insurance agent to enjoy health benefits. However, this coverage type may not be as comprehensive as what's obtainable on the ACA marketplace, but it's just enough to cover emergencies.
There are numerous health insurance plans to consider when out of a job in the U.S. These include short-term and long-term options that cover you and your family. However, figuring out the best insurance coverage for you can be overwhelming, so we recommend you speak to experts. This will help determine which plan fits your budget and offers the most benefits.