What To Do If You Have Lost Your Health Insurance and Need New Coverage
By Trisha Torrey. Patient Empowerment Expert
Updated June 25, 2014.
Whether you've recently been laid off, or your employer has decided to cut back on the cost of benefits by no longer offering health insurance, or if you've recently been divorced from the spouse or partner who supplied health insurance to your family, or maybe you've moved too far and had to leave your job behind.
- Determine whether you are eligible for COBRA. COBRA is the federal law that requires employers to continue coverage to employees and their families for up to 18 months after they have left that job. There are a few requirements that must be met, (for example, your employer doesn't need to offer COBRA if there are fewer than 20 employees) but in general, this will be your least expensive way of maintaining the insurance you've had. Don't be shocked, though. It will strike you as very expensive because, up until now, your employer has been paying a portion of your premium. Learn more about COBRA coverage .
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Determine your Additional Options
Depending on your family's annual income, you may be eligible for Medicaid, subsidies to pay for your insurance, or you may find you can get a break on your income taxes. The possibilities are governed by both the federal government and your state's laws. You can find out what your eligibility might be through Healthcare.gov. or, a group called Coverage for All provides background information, state-by-state, about the many programs that are available no matter what your income. Are you a veteran? If you served in the military and were honorably discharged, under certain circumstances you may be eligible for coverage through the Veteran's Administration (VA).
- Figure out what other options you have for acquiring health insurance. Take a look at individual, private health insurance options and make comparisons with not only policy costs, but out of pocket costs, too.
The VA website provides a great tool for determining your eligibility . If one or more family members aren't healthy, consider insuring them with separate plans, if they are eligible, and if that will save you money. For example, if you have a child with a medical problem, your child may be eligible for the CHIP (a state program for Children's Health Insurance Protection) Learn more about this option . If one of your family members has a pre-existing condition, you'll want to explore possibilities that are newly developed since passage of healthcare reform (the Affordable Care Act), called PCIP (Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan) . Do you have a hobby that you can turn into a side business? If you form a business, and "hire" your spouse or an adult child, you can be considered an employer "group." Each state has small business organizations and chambers of commerce that businesses can join, and that can make them eligible for group insurance programs. Contact your local Small Business Association or Small Business Development Center (often located in community colleges) to ask about this possibility.
Insuring Your Future
Just because you are left today looking for new options doesn't mean you have to settle for substandard insurance for the rest of your insurance life (which could last until you're 65 when you are eligible for Medicare .)
Consider these additional options:
If you are in a committed relationship with someone who already has health insurance, then check to see if your state allows "domestic partner" insurance. and if so, what insurers offer plans that include it. If not, you might consider getting married and shifting the policy to family coverage. Beginning in 2014, encourage your employer to opt-in to a health insurance exchange that may be more affordable for the company, but can keep costs lower for you, too.
- Find another job that does offer benefits.
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