How to Get Health Insurance Without a Job

Get coverage before you need it.

Get coverage before you need it.

Bad things can happen at the worst of times, like major medical expenses when you have no job or employer-sponsored health insurance to help with the cost. To protect yourself and family from the burden of such financial surprises, get your own affordable health insurance plan. If you really cannot afford to pay anything, you may even qualify for a state-sponsored health plan. Most people can find an affordable plan with decent coverage that meets their needs.


If you recently lost your job, and your employer-sponsored health insurance, you may be able to extend that same coverage, thanks the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The act gives employees, or ex-employees, the right to continue their health benefits. Qualified individuals can expect to receive a notification in the mail that explains this and how much it will cost to continue coverage for up to 18 months. You have 60 days from the notice to make a decision. COBRA coverage will take a bite out of your finances because you will no longer receive any help with the premiums from your employer, but you will be able to maintain the coverage in a situation where you can't afford not to keep it.


If you are under 26 years old, you may be able to hop onto a parent's health insurance plan. While this has not always been the case, the Affordable Care Act has made this possible even if you do not live with your parents, are married, do not depend on them financially and are not in school. A parent can add you to her employer-sponsored plan, giving you affordable and quality coverage, during an open enrollment period or when meeting a qualifying event as determined by her employer.


If you are thinking about going back to school while you are without a job, you might be pleased with the student plan of the college or university. Schools often have an on-campus health facility that works together with a comprehensive health insurance plan to give students adequate coverage for an affordable rate. Purchasing the school's health insurance may even be mandatory if you are unable to provide proof of other equal coverage.


Many health insurance companies offer plans to individuals. Shop around to find a plan that offers the amount of coverage you need for a reasonable price. Expect to pay substantially more if you want a low deductible. Some plans offer limited benefits that are not subject to the deductible for an occasional doctor's office visit and then pay for major expenses after you meet the deductible. This can be a cost-effective option if you are generally healthy but want to be protected if something major strikes.


If no job means you have no money to spend on health insurance, check with your state's health and welfare office to find out if you qualify for a state program such as Medicaid. State health plans generally have strict income guidelines, but if you have no income you might qualify. Children and pregnant women are generally offered health coverage with more lenient income limits. For example, the Children's Health Insurance Plan is available for children whose families cannot afford health insurance but make too much to qualify for Medicaid.


About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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