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COBRA, Medicaid, Healthcare Marketplace: How to get health insurance if you are unemployed


If you have lost your health insurance due to COVID-19, you have several options for receiving health care.

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Healthcare can be expensive even when you have health insurance. But if you lost your job (and insurance) due to coronavirus pandemic, it’s scary to think about what might happen if you get sick or need to see a doctor but can’t afford it.

Losing a job comes with it stress and insecurity and calculating healthcare should not add to it. Continue reading below to find out what options you have for health coverage if you lost your plan provided by the employer and what you can do for save money on healthcare costs in the meantime or if you can not afford the options available.


The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act is an option that allows you to keep your health insurance from your previous employer for up to 18 months after you lose your job. But COBRA will be more expensive than what you paid earlier, because your employer will stop paying their share of the health insurance plan when you sign up.

According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation from 2019, employees pay on average about 18% of the total cost of their health insurance plans while employers cover the other 82%. This means that your total cost for a COBRA plan can cost much more than you are used to paying.

To find out how much COBRA can cost, you need to find out how much your employer contributed to the plan and then add that number to what you contributed from your paycheck. You can usually find that information by contacting your previous HR department or the person who handled your job health insurance and other benefits. Your employer or insurance company should contact you to provide you with information on how to register for COBRA.

For more information, read the U.S. Department of Labor: Employee’s Guide to Health Benefits Under the COBRA Guide or visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.

The health insurance market

If you can not afford COBRA or want to explore more options, you can use the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you lose your job, you qualify for a special registration period (so that you can register outside the specified annual registration dates) and you have 60 days to register for a plan when you enter the market. Depending on your income, you may be able to get a tax credit to help you subsidize some of your health insurance plan in the market.

At Marketplace, you can search for different plans depending on the level of coverage you need and you see plans from local and nationwide health insurance providers, including Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare.


Medicaid is a federal and state program that can help you cover your health care if you meet the requirements. The program is intended to cover costs for low-income Americans and people with disabilities, and the requirements for Medicaid depend on the country in which you live. You can check your permissions and find out more about the program at Medicaid.gov.


Healthcare costs can also add up to health insurance – here are some options that can help you save money.

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Other ways to save money on healthcare

If you want options to pay for health care costs outside of the insurance plans above, there are some ways to reduce the cost of the services you need.

Cost-sharing plans, such as Liberty HealthShare, group people and share the cost of care. You have to pay a monthly or annual membership fee, but the fee may be cheaper than a health insurance premium.

Off-exchange insurance plans, such as Oscar Health, involve buying insurance directly from a broker or supplier. For some of these plans, you may have to pay a lower monthly coverage fee, but you will have to pay more for services. Sometimes these plans offer additional benefits, such as access to telemedicine or other benefits that federal providers may not offer.

Telemedicine Providers often accept insurance, but if you do not have health insurance, telemedicine visits are sometimes cheaper than personal doctor visits. One example is Rory, a digital health clinic for women that offers online care services. Rory does not accept insurance, but the cost of seeing a doctor is practically less than a joint salary with a traditional doctor.

Read more: 10 health problems that you can have treated with an online doctor’s appointment

Final thoughts

Losing health insurance coverage when you lose your job is stressful, and navigating the aftermath can feel overwhelming. Taking the time to explore your options can help you find a plan that works for you and your family. The option you choose will be personal and your eligibility for certain plans depends on many factors. But it can save a lot of money and hassle in the long run if you get sick and do not have a health insurance plan.

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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.

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