If you find yourself unemployed for any length of time and unable to take advantage of an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, you might be understandably nervous about securing coverage for yourself and your family, not to mention the potential penalties/fees associated with going uninsured for any length of time. With Obamacare (or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) legally mandating health insurance for every American, you could face some serious fines for failing to obtain proper insurance, whether you’re unemployed or not. This is because requirements and eligibility are based not on your employment status, but on the income and size of your household. Luckily, you may find that there are options and/or exemptions that you qualify for even while unemployed.
The first thing you need to do is speak to a licensed agent. You’ll be asked to provide information about your household income and the size of your household (the number of adults, children, and other dependents, including dependent parents or adult offspring, in your home). From there, you will receive information about any services you qualify for and what you will be expected to pay for them.
In the case that you brought in the sole income for your family and you are currently unemployed, there’s a good chance that you will be eligible for certain services at low or no cost. In most cases, you will qualify for a low-cost marketplace insurance plan at the very least, including minimal premiums, deductibles, tax credits, and so on. Of course, with no source of income you might have a difficult time justifying even this small expense. Just keep in mind that you can pay now or you can pay later. If you fail to obtain appropriate health insurance coverage, you will be penalized at the end of the year, possibly to the tune of several hundred dollars, depending on the size of your household. And that number is only going to increase in the coming years. If you can muster it, it’s probably better to find a way to pay for insurance (and gain the benefits that come with it).
There are other options, though. You might also qualify for a low- or no-cost Medicaid plan. If you are of a certain age, you suffer disability, or you’re pregnant, for example, you will almost certainly qualify for this type of plan, especially if you’re currently unemployed. Even if you don’t meet other requirements, many states now offer Medicaid to any adult that is under a certain income level. You’ll just need to check in with your state health insurance exchange to find out exactly what you are eligible to receive.
And you’ll also find that the CHIP program will likely provide coverage for any minor children in your home, even if your household income is too high to allow you to take advantage of Medicaid. CHIP may also provide some services for pregnant women.
Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the legal mandate to carry health insurance coverage. But when you’re facing financial troubles due to unemployment, you could be eligible for special treatment under Obamacare. You have to take the initiative to find out, though, or you could be held liable and penalized for being uninsured.