There are few things more stressful than being without a job. Whether you quit or you leave a job against your will through firing or layoff, going without a steady income for any length of time can be understandably anxiety inducing. When you add on top of that the high cost of paying for your own health insurance, even a nest egg designed to keep you afloat until you find a new job could be stretched to the limit. The good news is that there are many options to consider when it comes to remaining insured while you’re between jobs.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, mandates that every American have health insurance or face a fine. However, there are some exemptions you can take advantage of, although you’ll have to fill out appropriate paperwork to ensure you don’t pay a penalty for going without health insurance coverage for any length of time. For example, you don’t necessarily have to pay for interim coverage if you will have a new job and new coverage within two consecutive months. If your unemployment lasts longer than the two-month period, you may seek out other hardship exemptions. If the insurance you qualify for costs more than a certain percentage of your household income for the year or you are exempt from filing a tax return because of your low income, you could also qualify for health insurance exemptions.
In most cases, however, you will have to continue to carry coverage while you’re between jobs, and may want to depending on your health status. COBRA used to be the best option because it allows former employees to continue with their coverage under their previous employers. Unfortunately, COBRA could be very expensive because you must now pay the full cost of the insurance, whereas your employer may have contributed to your policy during your employment. This is something to consider, certainly, but it’s also a good idea to check in with the ACA marketplace via your state health insurance exchange or HealthCare.gov. Not only can you learn about possible exemptions you may qualify for, but you’re likely to find the best options for low-cost coverage to tide you over while you search for a new job.
Job loss is a situation that makes you eligible to enroll with an insurance policy even if the open enrollment window for the year has closed — if your insurance was provide through your job. Once you have applied with the health insurance marketplace, or your state exchange, you’ll find out if you qualify for low-cost coverage due to your financial situation. In some cases, applicants may qualify for Medicaid or other programs that are low-cost or even free. It could depend on your previous income, the number of dependents you support, and also the state in which you reside. Not all states have chosen to contribute additional funds to support Medicare, Medicaid, and other services, so these options might be limited. You could also find that you are required to pay quite a bit out-of-pocket for coverage, even through the healthcare marketplace.
For healthy individuals and families you can look into short term insurance. The last thing you want is to have a medical emergency like injury or illness without appropriate insurance coverage. So look into all of your options, weigh the pros and cons, and select the health coverage that you think will best suit your needs and your budget until you find a new job.
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