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Finding New Health Insurance After Getting Laid Off

This is an update to an article posted originally in March 2020. This update includes new information about the health plans for the unemployed.


If you want to keep your employer-based insurance plan you can do so through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). Coverage can last up to 18 months but this is a very expensive option.


If you visit the national healthcare exchange you have a 60-day special enrollment period following the loss of your previous insurance. If your income is limited you can qualify for assistance paying for premiums. For those whose income is too low, you should consider Medicaid instead. Learn about plan categories here.


Many of the States have expanded Medicaid to make it available to low-income adults throw the Affordable Care Act. If your state is expanding Medicaid, use this chart to see what you may qualify for based on your income and family size.

Medicaid provides health coverage for some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. In some states the program covers all low-income adults below a certain income level.

States that have not adopted the Medicaid Expansion, might still be an option. Whether you can get Medicaid as an individual or not your children could still qualify for CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program).  You can find out by filling out an application at the health insurance marketplace (Healthcare.gov) or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

Many people who recently lost employment, and potentially health coverage for themselves and their family, can turn to Medicaid to seek low-cost health coverage. Those whose income has now dropped low enough for them to fall below the federal poverty level ($17,000 for an individual and $35,000 for a family of four) can immediately qualify for Medicaid, enrollment for which is open all year long.

Additionally, several states have opened up a special enrollment period for state health exchanges (Marketplace) to assist individuals who have lost health coverage due to recent unemployment – some of these may be extended further:

Outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period, a qualifying life event makes you eligible for the Special Enrollment Period on HealthCare.gov. Loss of existing health coverage (job-based, individual and student plans) are one of those qualifying events. Find out more here.


The best first step you can make is to go to HEALTHCARE.GOV and choose the “See if I can enroll” section. There is also a link at the top for special response to the Coronavirus crisis. In the process of applying you’ll be asked about income and family size which will help determine whether you can enroll in a Marketplace plan or not. If not, they will make recommendations. Heatlhcare.gov is probably the best portal for finding health plans for the unemployed.


From the Editor:

If you feel like you don’t understand how to speak the language of insurance, read this:

Health Insurance: 12 Terms Every Patient Needs To Know“.

Thank you to WBRZ.com for providing inspiration and source information for this article.

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