How to get health insurance if you lose your job4 min read
Health care can be expensive even when you have health insurance. But if you lost your job (and insurance) due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s scary to think about what can happen if you get sick or need to see a doctor, but aren’t able to afford it.
Losing a job comes with stress and uncertainty — and figuring out health care shouldn’t add to that. Keep reading below to find out what your options are for health coverage if you lost your employer-provided plan, and what you can do to save money on health care costs in the interim or if you can’t afford the options available to you.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act is one option that allows you to keep your health insurance coverage from your previous employer for up to 18 months after you lose your job. But COBRA will be more expensive than what you paid before, because your employer stops paying their part of the health insurance plan when you enroll.
According to a 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, employees pay for about 18% of the total cost of their health insurance plans on average while employers cover the other 82%. That means your total cost for a COBRA plan can cost far more than you’re used to paying.
To find out how much COBRA could cost, you need to find out how much your employer was contributing to the plan and then add that number to what you were contributing from your paycheck. You can usually find that information by contacting your former HR department or whoever handled your job’s health insurance and other benefits. Your employer or insurance company should contact you to provide you with the information on how to sign up for COBRA.
For more information, you can read the US Department of Labor: Employee’s Guide to Health Benefits Under COBRA guide or visit the US Department of Labor website.
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Health Insurance Marketplace
If you can’t afford COBRA or want to explore more options, you can use the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you lose your job, you qualify for a special enrollment period (so you can enroll outside the set yearly enrollment dates) and you will have 60 days to enroll in a plan once you join the marketplace. Depending on your income, you may be able to get a tax credit that will help subsidize part of your marketplace health insurance plan.
In the Marketplace, you can search for a variety of plans depending on what level of coverage you need, and you’ll see plans from local and nationwide health insurance providers, including Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare.
Medicaid is a federal and state program that can help cover you for health care if you meet the requirements. The program is intended to help cover costs for lower-income Americans and people with disabilities, and the requirements for Medicaid depend on which state you live in. You can check your eligibility and find out more about the program at Medicaid.gov.
Other ways to save money on health care
If you want alternative options to pay for health care costs outside of the insurance plans above, there are a few ways you can reduce the costs for the services you need.
Cost-sharing plans, such as Liberty HealthShare, group people together and share the costs for health care. You do have to pay a monthly or annual membership fee, but the fee can be cheaper than a health insurance premium.
Off-exchange insurance plans, such as Oscar Health, involves buying insurance directly from a broker or provider. For some of these plans you have an option to pay a lower monthly fee for coverage, but you’ll have to pay more for services. Sometimes these plans offer additional benefits, like telemedicine access or other perks federal providers may not offer.
Telemedicine providers often accept insurance, but if you don’t have health insurance, sometimes telemedicine visits are more affordable than in-person doctor visits. One example is Rory, a digital health clinic for women that offers health care services online. Rory doesn’t accept insurance, but the costs to see a doctor virtually typically cost less than a co-pay to a traditional doctor.
Read more: 10 health issues you can get treated with an online doctor’s appointment
Losing health insurance coverage when you lose your job is stressful, and navigating the aftermath can feel overwhelming. Taking some time to explore your options can help you find a plan that works for you and your family. The option you choose will be personal and your eligibility for some plans will depend on many factors. But it can save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run if you get sick and don’t have a plan in place for health insurance.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.