Know your options

Affordable Health Insurance Options for the Unemployed

If you are single and unemployed and therefore have been unable to afford health insurance, thanks to the newly passed Healthcare Reform Act, you may have more options available to you.

Depending on how long ago you worked at your last job - if you had health insurance even before passage of the new legislation, you may qualify for continuation of coverage under your state's COBRA plan. COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It is a federal law that permits you to continue your employee-based group health insurance plan even once you become unemployed. Qualifications, rates, and length of time you are permitted to remain on COBRA vary from state to state. Check out our State Guides for information regarding COBRA health insurance benefits in your state. COBRA is not always the best option, even if you qualify for it. Understand that while COBRA guarantees you the right to continue on your existing employer-based group plan, there is no guarantee that you will pay the price you were paying - and since your employer's contribution to the plan will be removed, you can usually expect to pay significantly more for COBRA insurance. 

A better option than COBRA may be to explore private health insurance. If you already have, and found it prohibitively expensive, that is about to change thanks to the passage of the new legislation. Further good news is since the passage of the Act, if you are unemployed and without health insurance, as you begin to shop around for private health insurance, insurance companies can no longer turn you down based on your health, or pre-existing medical conditions. As of 2014, states will be required to set up "Insurance Exchanges."  These "Exchanges" are designed to expand the health insurance market to more Americans. Under the Exchange concept, health insurance consumers will be able to purchase much more affordable health insurance by leveraging a more competitive, user-friendly online marketplace for private health insurance.

If you still feel you are "priced-out" of private health insurance, and are unemployed you may qualify for Medicaid right now, and if you do not - a good part of the healthcare reform legislation expands the qualifications for Medicaid to millions more Americans as of 2014.

On the horizon for the unemployed, finding a new job that offers health benefits will be easier thanks to the new legislation. Since as of 2014, companies with more than 50 employees will have to provide healthcare benefits for their workers or face fines and penalties.  And if you have thought about starting your own business, now is a better time than ever as the Act provides incentives and tax breaks for small business owners to help them obtain and provide healthcare benefits for themselves and their employees.

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