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I lost my job and COBRA seems expensive. Do I have any other options or do I have to go without insurance until I find another job?
You are correct, while COBRA helps many Americans retain major medical health insurance, it can be pricy. To retain your group health insurance benefits, you will pay your entire premium—what you previously contributed as well as the share previously paid by your employer—plus 2 percent for administration costs.1
Deciding whether or not to take COBRA can be difficult. It may seem especially expensive, but going uninsured can be risky to one’s physical and financial health. Fortunately, there are alternatives if you waive COBRA continuation coverage.
Your three main options include the following:
1. Temporary health insurance coverage – Short-term medical insurance plans last 30 to 364 days, depending on your health insurance coverage needs and state laws. They are designed to be economical and provide benefits for unexpected medical care. Typically, these plans may be customized in terms of deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket amounts.
Where to apply: Contact a health insurance agent, visit a carrier’s website, or use a multi-carrier website such as ehealthinsurance.com or healthedeals.com. Online application takes only a few minutes and coverage can begin as early as the next day.
Please note: If you have a pre-existing medical condition, a temporary health insurance plan is not likely to cover it or you may be denied temporary health insurance coverage altogether. Temporary health insurance plans are not intended for long-term situations; as such, they do not fulfill the Affordable Care Act’s individual shared responsibility provision and do not qualify for Obamacare tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies.
With the exception of those who are exempt from buying minimum essential coverage, the ACA allows Americans to go without health insurance for a single period of up to three months each year. So, if you are in relatively good health and only need health insurance for a month or two, this may be a good fit.
2. Individual major medical insurance via special enrollment – If you believe your situation may be long-term or want health insurance coverage similar to that offered by your employer, consider shopping for an individual major medical insurance plan.
These plans are ACA-compliant and fulfill the individual shared responsibility provision. They include preventive care and essential health benefits as outlined by the health care reform law. You cannot be denied coverage or charged more based on your medical history.
Where to apply: You may purchase individual major medical health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, which includes state-based and federally facilitated health insurance exchanges; or through the private marketplace, which includes health insurance agents and carriers.
Please note: Typically, you may only apply and enroll for individual major medical insurance during open enrollment; however, qualifying life events such as job loss may make you eligible for a special enrollment period.
These health insurance plans are only eligible for cost-sharing subsidies and tax credits when purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
3. Your spouse’s job-based health insurance plan – If your partner has access to employer-sponsored health insurance, you may be consider obtaining major medical insurance benefits that way. He or she will need to contact the human resources department to determine eligibility and cost.
Find health insurance
For more information on your options on and away from the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit healthedeals.com or call 888-839-7679 to speak with a health insurance agent from healthedeals.com.
1 United States Department of Labor. “FAQs about COBRA Continuation Health Coverage." n.d.
Jenifer Dorsey is a freelance writer whose specialties include health and fitness, wellness, sports and recreation. She is a competitive amateur track cyclist who also enjoys mountain biking, hiking, camping and other outdoor adventure. Jenifer received a B.A. in journalism from Columbia College Chicago and is an MFA candidate at Naropa University. She lives in Colorado.