Although there are several ways to get coverage, the most cost-effective option will be with a plan that lowers your health insurance costs based on your income, like the plans on the marketplace here. for example, a health insurance plan for someone who recently lost their job might cost $47 per month. that assumes the person chooses a cheap bronze plan and their total income for the year is $35,000, including the parts of the year they are employed.
While Medicaid is even cheaper than the market here, it is only available to those who meet the income requirements, which can be less than $18,754 for individuals in many states. If you recently lost your job or your spouse is employed, it will be more difficult to qualify for Medicaid because other sources of income, including unemployment income, are included when determining eligibility.
When looking for coverage, beware of short-term health insurance plans and their high deductibles. The low prices of these plans are attractive, but before the benefits kick in, you may have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for medical care.
5 best health insurance options for the unemployed
For those who are unemployed or recently lost a job, there are five methods of obtaining a health insurance plan:
will you soon qualify for medicare? medicare is the best health insurance for people age 65 and older or with a qualifying disability. If you’re unemployed and expect to be eligible for Medicare soon, consider how to manage your costs and coverage in the meantime. For example, if you only need health insurance for a few months, a short-term insurance policy can be an inexpensive way to fill the coverage gap.
how much does health insurance cost without a job?
The cost of health insurance will depend on the type of plan you choose. The cheapest option might be Medicaid, which is free or low-cost, or a plan through the ACA Marketplace, which has a variety of coverage options and discounted rates based on income.
medicaid and chip
Benefits include medical care, check-ups, hospitalization and prescription drugs. all children have dental coverage with medicaid or chip. For adults on Medicaid, dental benefits vary by state.
Coverage typically begins immediately after you qualify, and most states determine eligibility in real time, so you’ll know right away if you qualify.
Medicaid eligibility is generally based on monthly income, so the sharp drop in income after losing a job could increase your chances of qualifying.
however, unemployment income is considered when determining if you are eligible for medicaid. Since these benefits are typically about half of your paycheck when you were employed, you can roughly see how your previous earnings when you were employed could affect Medicaid eligibility when you’re unemployed.
also, states have different limits on how much you can earn to qualify for medicaid. If you live in one of the 36 states with expanded Medicaid, you may qualify if your income is less than 138% of the federal poverty line (FPL). for example, you are an individual earning less than $18,754 or a family of four earning less than $38,295.
in alaska and hawaii, you may qualify with a higher income because the states have higher fpl amounts and have expanded their medicaid program. other states without expanded medicaid have a lower limit on how much you can earn to qualify, and you’ll only be eligible if you earn less than 100% fpl.
Below are the monthly income limits for Medicaid.
If you need coverage for your family but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a public insurance program that provides free or low-cost coverage for children. for example, you might qualify as a family of four earning $50,000 per year. that’s $4167 per month.
Your chip eligibility is automatically determined when you apply for Medicaid or a Marketplace insurance plan. and in most states, anyone up to age 19 can be eligible for coverage.
Costs vary by state, but your cost will be no more than 5% of your household income. For example, if your annual income is $40,000, your child’s insurance policy will be no more than $167 per month.
health insurance market here
Anyone can get coverage through the Marketplace regardless of income, making it useful for those who have been recently or seasonally unemployed. Plus, the amount you’ll pay for a plan is based on your expected annual income, which helps make insurance more affordable.
See also: How to find insurance claims on a house
Often called “obamacare” plans, health insurance plans on the market are sold by private insurance companies. plans are grouped into tiers: catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, making it easy to find the best level of coverage for you. You can also cancel your insurance at any time.
All plans provide comprehensive health care benefits, including free preventive care. You can’t be charged more because of a medical condition, and you can’t be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. for children, dental and vision benefits are included, and adults can add dental coverage.
cost of market plans here
With the health insurance marketplace, the cost of plans will depend on a variety of factors including your age, location, household size, the level of coverage you choose, and whether you qualify for discounted rates based on your income .
For those looking for medical benefits in the middle, the average cost of a silver plan is $541 per month if you pay full price. this level of coverage is best for most people because the plans provide a balance between monthly costs and plan benefits.
For those who are young and healthy or don’t need a lot of medical care, choosing a bronze plan or lower is a good way to save money, but when you need medical care, you’ll pay more out of pocket.
Those with significant or expensive medical needs may be able to get the best deal if they choose a gold or platinum plan. these plans will cost more each month, but the better benefits will mean you pay less for health care, helping you save money overall.
discounts and ways to save
many people who are unemployed will qualify for aca marketplace programs to lower the monthly cost of health insurance and make health care more affordable. the amount you could save is based on your estimated annual income, which may include parts of the year you were employed.
Your marketplace application will automatically let you know if you qualify.
To see an example of how premium tax credits work, the full price of an affordable bronze plan averages $336 per month, based on the most affordable bronze plan in each state. after premium tax credits are applied, the cost drops to $47 per month, on average, for someone earning $35,000 per year. that’s an 86% discount.
The final amount you would pay for a health insurance plan varies widely. But the most important thing to remember is that how much you pay for health insurance is discounted based on how much you expect to earn throughout the year. don’t be surprised to see a high sticker price at first, before your discounts are applied.
cheaper health insurance companies
Monthly costs are for a 40-year-old who purchases a Bronze or Expanded Bronze plan with calculations based on CMS data for 2022 plans offered in eight states.
time and how to get coverage
If you lost your health insurance when you lost your job, you qualify for a special enrollment period (September) in the Marketplace here. This allows you to enroll in an insurance plan mid-year, beginning 60 days before losing coverage and ending 60 days after losing coverage. if you miss this window, you must wait for fall open enrollment to sign up for insurance on the aca marketplace. In most states, open enrollment begins November 1. 1 and continues until January. 15.
join a family member’s plan
If you’re unemployed, you may be able to get health insurance coverage through a parent, spouse, domestic partner, or other family member. This can be an affordable option because an employer will often contribute to the cost of the health insurance plan.
Your actual costs will vary depending on plan benefits and how much the employer contributes to the cost. Generally, if you qualify for medical coverage, you’re also eligible for associated dental or vision plans.
when can you get coverage
Losing health insurance coverage automatically triggers a 30-day special enrollment period (September), allowing you to update who is covered by a health insurance plan. this is shorter than the 60 day period that is available on the market here. however, all employers must offer special enrollment due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (hipaa).
When you enroll in an employer or group plan, your health insurance coverage will begin the first day of the month after you enroll.
short-term health insurance or indemnity plan
A short-term health insurance plan can be a quick fix for getting health insurance coverage when you’re unemployed or have no income.
The affordability of short-term health insurance plans is a big plus. Plans cost an average of $124 per month. That’s cheaper than the full price of a market plan here. however, for those who qualify for discounted rates on Marketplace plans, a short-term plan will generally be more expensive.
benefits and coverage
The benefits of a short-term insurance policy are often different than those of a traditional health insurance policy. That’s because short-term plans don’t have the same regulations as ACA plans, so they may not cover maternity care, mental health, or prescription drugs.
Plans can start right away, so it’s a fast way to get covered. But there’s usually a health exam before you can sign up, and you may be denied coverage because of your age or medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. And even if you can get a policy with a pre-existing condition, short-term insurance may not cover medical treatments for that condition.
also, most short-term insurance plans have a very high deductible, so members will have to pay a large amount of medical care out of pocket before the plan begins to contribute to medical care . You may also see some plans with a fixed benefit structure called an indemnity plan where they will pay a fixed price for certain medical treatments no matter how much they cost. For example, if you have an MRI, the plan could pay $250 toward the cost, whether the bill totals $300 or $500.
Because of these coverage issues and variations in plans, it’s important to carefully review plan benefits and exclusions before you enroll.
main short-term insurance companies for the unemployed
availability and duration of coverage
Many states have developed their own rules about short-term insurance plans, and therefore access may change based on location.
short-term health insurance cannot be purchased in 11 states and the district of columbia. In these places, the plans are not allowed or there are no companies selling short-term plans in the state. The states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The maximum duration of a policy also varies by state. The total length of coverage, including renewals, can be as little as three months as in states like Virginia and Washington. Other states like Minnesota allow coverage for up to one year, and in Louisiana, coverage is allowed for a total of 36 months.
medical insurance charges
Cobra, short for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a program that allows you to continue the health insurance you had through a job even after you stop working for the employer.
The change in costs is because you will pay the full price of the plan instead of splitting the costs with your employer. For example, while he was employed, he may have only been paying $75 per month for a $500 plan because his employer paid $425 as part of his compensation. by switching to cobra, someone in this situation would be responsible for the entire cost of $500.
Insurance charges is $596 per month, based on average costs for employer-sponsored health insurance plans.
when should you use cobra
Cobra isn’t usually the most cost-effective way to get health insurance. we recommend that you use it only for a few months or in the following situations:
family coverage and types of plans
children and dependents can also get health insurance coverage through cobra. You can also use Cobra to continue dental or vision insurance. however, sometimes you can get a better deal by looking for a stand-alone dental insurance policy.
moment of coverage
You will usually have 60 days to enroll in Cobra after losing coverage through an employer. and you can usually keep the cobra for at least 18 months. there are no contracts, and you can cancel at any time.
For those considering a cobra and marketplace plan, the 60-day limit is important. for the first 60 days, both collect and the marketplace are options available to you. after 60 days, neither will be an option and you’ll have to wait until fall open enrollment to enroll in a Marketplace plan.
get coverage from the market after it collects
In most cases, losing health insurance coverage allows you to enroll in a health insurance plan in the Marketplace at any time of the year. but there are specific rules when leaving cobra.
frequently asked questions
methodology and sources
data sources include:
Costs are based on a 40 year old non-smoker. The cheapest health insurance companies are calculated using CMS data for 2022 health insurance plans offered in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin. Short-term health insurance policy costs are for Phoenix.