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Can I Get Health Insurance Without a Job?

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Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001...

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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With all of the negative press regarding healthcare in the United States, many individuals are left to believe they cannot obtain health insurance without a job.

Fortunately, this is not the case, despite the fact that 25 percent of Californians don’t have health insurance.

While employer sponsored healthcare is often an inexpensive way to get health insurance coverage and avoid being dropped by insurance companies, there are multiple healthcare options available while you are unemployed.

Recently Lost Your Job?

  • If you recently got laid off
  • Or were fired for a reason other than gross misconduct
  • You should be able to continue your health insurance coverage via COBRA
  • Which extends your benefits for a specified period of time

If you recently lost a job with employee sponsored health insurance, you are eligible for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, which allows you to continue your coverage.

This coverage will extend your benefits for a specified period of time. It’s a good option if you’re already receiving treatment for a medical condition.

But it’s very expensive, so you’ll want to line up another solution for the long term.

The next option available to you is a regular individual or family health insurance policy purchased in the open market.

This is similar to purchasing auto insurance or homeowner’s insurance.

The drawback to this type of coverage is that you will not see the same discounted group rates you may have enjoyed through your employer-sponsored plan.

Another negative relates to pre-existing conditions. You may have to endure a 12-18 month waiting period before your new insurance company will pay claims for medical care resulting from the condition(s).

Many people believe the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, requires health insurance companies to offer coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

This is simply not true; rather it protects you from being denied coverage when switching employers who offer health insurance. It will provide you no such protection in the open market.

What other health care options are available to me?

  • If you are unemployed and meet certain income requirements
  • You might be able to apply for Medicaid
  • Or receive federal premium assistance
  • Via a state-based health insurance marketplace thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Medicaid is another option for those who are both unemployed or employed, but meet certain income requirements that demonstrate an inability to afford a healthcare policy.

This program might cover you and/or your children if you meet certain criteria.

If you are over the age of 65, you can qualify for the government health insurance program known as Medicare. You’ve been paying for it via taxes for most of your life, so be certain not to miss this opportunity.

Make sure to check with any group or member associations you may belong to as well. In some cases, you can obtain coverage at a group discount rate.

Unlike employer-sponsored healthcare, the group or organization will likely not pay a portion of your premium. The discounted rate is the only benefit you may receive when going this route. AARP members are an example of one of these groups.

A high-risk pool may be an option for you as well. These pools are state-sponsored programs that offer insurance to those denied coverage in the open market.

However, this coverage option is very expensive. Check with your state department of insurance to determine if your state has such a program.

If you know you will be unemployed for a short time and are looking for a less expensive option than COBRA insurance, you may want to purchase a Short Term Health Insurance plan.

This is achieved the same way you would purchase a normal plan in the open market; however, it is for a shorter, predetermined amount of time, which keeps the premium lower.

Contact an independent agent or shop online for insurance quotes if you are looking to purchase health insurance in the open market.

This will help you find the best coverage available to you at the lowest rate.

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