Health Insurance for Unemployed Individuals: What Are Your Options?
Finding health insurance for unemployed periods can help relieve the stress of the unknown. Whether you’re temporarily out of work or waiting on coverage to start for a new job, it’s important to maintain major medical insurance while unemployed to help with healthcare costs in case of an emergency. No matter your unique circumstance, you have options when it comes to finding insurance for unemployed people. Whatever position you find yourself in, there is a way for you to get health insurance.
In 10 questions, we can help you discover your options with our Coverage Finder Tool, or you can read on to learn more.
What Is the Best Healthcare Insurance for Unemployed People?
There are several different options for those seeking health insurance for unemployed individuals.
- Short-Term Health Insurance
- Individual ACA Health Insurance
- Medicaid and/or CHIP
- Spouse or Parent’s Health Insurance Plan
Short-term health insurance plans are designed to cover emergencies and unexpected illnesses. They are not intended to be used as a permanent solution to your healthcare coverage needs. It’s important to note that short-term, or temporary, health insurance is not compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This means short-term health insurance will not cover pre-existing conditions or include other comprehensive benefits. Additionally, temporary health insurance is not guaranteed issue. This means you’ll be asked questions about your health history and could possibly be denied coverage, depending on your answers to those questions.
Who Should Consider Short-Term Health Insurance?
Temporary medical insurance is ideal for people who:
- Need affordable health insurance for a short period of time.
- Need temporary health insurance for unemployed periods of time.
- Need to buy health insurance when leaving one job and starting a new one.
- Are seasonal employees who need temporary health insurance.
- Are college students who aged out of a parent’s policy.
- Retired early and need coverage until their Medicare benefits begin.
- Missed the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
- Cannot afford, or do not want to purchase, COBRA insurance
How Do You Apply for Short-Term Health Insurance?
Most short-term plans are easy to apply for and can be a helpful solution if you’re looking for medical insurance for a period of time. The premiums tend to be affordable. However, the deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses for short-term plans are usually more expensive than those for comprehensive ACA health plans.
Individual ACA Health Insurance
How Can I Get Individual Health Insurance?
You can get individual health insurance for individuals through a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). An SEP gives you 60 days to enroll in a comprehensive health insurance plan — for you only, or you and your family — after a qualifying life event. You can enroll as soon as your qualifying event occurs. There are several qualifying life events that can make you eligible for an SEP, including:1
- Job loss
- Adopting/having a baby
- Moving to a new ZIP code
- Loss of employer-sponsored health coverage
- Becoming a U.S. citizen
How Much Is Health Insurance Without a Job?
The cost of a health insurance plan without a job can vary. However, there are ways to lower your costs if you choose an Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance plan. When you begin shopping for an individual health insurance plan, you should pay special attention to subsidies. If you qualify for them, subsidies can lower the cost of your monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Here are two of the main subsidy types.
- A premium tax credit is a type of subsidy that can help lower your monthly premiums, if you’re eligible. You can choose to have the credit paid directly to your health insurance provider to be applied toward your premium,2 or you can claim your premium amount when you file your income tax return.3
- A cost-sharing reduction (CSR), also called “extra savings,” is a type of subsidy that can help lower your out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. If you qualify, you have to enroll in a Silver plan to get the extra savings.
You can check your eligibility for these subsidies online.
COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) is a way to retain your employer-based health insurance after losing, or leaving, a job. This coverage can last up to 3 years, but you will be responsible for the total amount of your coverage. This means you will have to pay your regular premium, plus the amount your company was previously providing. Because of the expense, COBRA is generally not an ideal form of health insurance for unemployed individuals who are dealing with limited finances.
However, through September 30, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has temporarily eliminated COBRA premiums for eligible individuals, which is essentially free health insurance, if you qualify.4 This could be your best option.
You may qualify for the COBRA subsidy if you’ve experienced an involuntary end to your employment or a reduction in work hours, elected COBRA continuation coverage in the last 18 months, and aren’t eligible for Medicare or any other group health plan.5
Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) are health insurance programs for low-income individuals who need health insurance coverage. Costs for these plans vary by state. To be eligible for these programs, you will have to prove that you meet your state’s required income limitations.
If you are 65 or older, or have a qualifying condition, Medicare may be a good long-term solution for unemployed medical insurance. Medicare has many parts, so we’ll briefly review the Medicare basics here.
- Original Medicare is Parts A and B.
- Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, includes the same benefits as Parts A and B (Original Medicare). Medicare Advantage plans also may cover prescription drugs, dental, vision, and hearing services. Part C plans can have $0 premiums.*
- Medicare Part D covers prescriptions drugs. For 2021, the estimated average Part D premium is $41.7 Because Original Medicare (Parts A and B) doesn’t cover prescription drugs, Part D may be needed.
- Medicare Supplement insurance, also known as Medigap, covers out-of-pocket expenses for Parts A and B. The premiums for Medicare Supplement plans vary greatly based on the benefits.
If you want help finding a Medicare plan that’s the right fit for your needs, take a look at your Medicare options online.
If your spouse has coverage through their employer, it may be possible for you to be added to their plan outside the annual Open Enrollment Period (OEP). Ask your spouse to contact their company’s HR department to find out.
If you’re under age 26 and your parent’s health insurance plan covers dependents, you usually can be added to their plan. But you can only stay on it until you turn 26.
What Can You Do If You Can’t Afford Health Insurance?
Health insurance during unemployment may seem unaffordable, but you do have additional options if a comprehensive plan with subsidies, or short-term health insurance, is still unaffordable. Medicaid and CHIP programs are available in each state for individuals who cannot afford other health insurance. The eligibility for these programs will depend on the state you live in. Medicaid provides state-specific guidance after you enter your location.
Find Health Insurance for Unemployed Individuals
If you’re looking for health insurance, unemployment shouldn’t hinder your search. HealthMarkets can help you explore your health coverage options, ranging from short-term health plans to Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans. We can help you find out if you’re eligible for an ACA subsidy. If you’re looking for something else, let us help you decide which type of medical insurance will work best for your needs. We can help you get covered, even if your best option isn’t a plan we offer.
1. “Qualifying Life Event (QLE).” HealthCare.gov. Retrieved from https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/qualifying-life-event/
2. “How to save on your monthly insurance bill with a premium tax credit.” HealthCare.gov Retrieved from https://www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/save-on-monthly-premiums/
3. “The Premium Tax Credit – The Basics.” Internal Revenue Service. Updated November 25, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/affordable-care-act/individuals-and-families/the-premium-tax-credit-the-basics
4. “FAQs About COBRA Premium Assistance Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” DOL.gov. Updated April 7, 2021 Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/EBSA/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/faqs/cobra-premium-assistance-under-arp.pdf
5. “Summary of the COBRA Premium Assistance Provisions under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” DOL.gov. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/cobra/premium-subsidy/summary-of-provisions.pdf Accessed April 30, 2021.
6. “Part B costs.” HealthCare.gov. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs
7. “Medicare Part D: A First Look at Medicare Prescription Drug Plans in 2021.” Kaiser Family Foundation. October 29, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/medicare-part-d-a-first-look-at-medicare-prescription-drug-plans-in-2021/
*Medicare Part B premium still applies.