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Losing your job is stressful. Losing your health insurance on top of that is even worse. And whether you have health concerns now or want to safeguard yourself and family for the future, you might be worried about how to cover medical expenses if you’re out of work. Find out what to do when you lose your health insurance because you lost your job.

Ask About COBRA

COBRA is a health insurance continuation option that many employers offer. It allows you to voluntarily extend the health coverage you have under your former employer’s plan. If you qualify for COBRA, you must be given the option to extend your coverage up to 18 or 36 months, depending on what event qualified you for COBRA.

However, your employer does not have to continue contributing to cover the premiums of this plan as they did when you were employed. If they elect to not offer contributions to the premium, COBRA coverage can be fairly expensive.

Check the Health Care Marketplace

Job loss that causes you to lose employer-sponsored or provided health insurance counts as a qualifying event. That means you’re eligible for a special enrollment period.

Normally, you can only sign up for insurance plans through the health care marketplaces during open enrollment periods, which typically run from November to January. Exact dates for enrollment depend on the state.

Special enrollment periods occur for people who have a qualifying event, such as a change in marriage status, a death in the family or job loss. You qualify for this special period whether you were fired, laid off or quit your job.

You must apply within 60 days of losing your insurance coverage. If your employee gives you notice and you know you’ll be losing your insurance, you can apply proactively up to 60 days before that happens.

Purchase Short-Term Coverage

Short-term insurance policies are meant to bridge the gap when you’re between jobs. Not all states allow for short-term insurance—eleven states currently prohibit their sale. But, depending on your state, short-term insurance could cover you for up to 364 days. These aren’t qualified plans under the ACA, which means they don’t offer all the benefits that the ACA requires by law. Typically, these are major medical plans meant to help cover the costs of a catastrophic illness or accident and not routine health care.

Make sure you understand what benefits are included and how the plan works if you opt for short-term coverage.

See If You Qualify for Medicaid

A man holds the hand of a young child while they walk down the street.

If you have lost your job, that probably means your income has been reduced. That could mean that you’re eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The income requirements vary by state, but you can find out more about eligibility from the Department of Health and Human Services.

You can apply for Medicaid and CHIP at any time, but remember that you can lose your Medicaid benefits if your income changes. Have a plan in place to budget for health insurance if you get a job that doesn’t offer benefits or has a waiting period before benefits start.

Go Without Health Insurance

You can choose to go without health insurance until you find another job or until open enrollment happens again. This can be a risky move because a health emergency or accident could lead to mounting medical expenses that leave you in serious debt.

But if you’re healthy and think there’s a good chance you’ll get a new job with coverage soon, you might decide to take the gamble. If you do, it’s a good idea to set aside some money in savings to help cover the cost of doctor’s visits or other necessary medical care should the need arise. For example, during COVD-19, you might use your stimulus check for this purpose.

You Have Options

Losing your job and your health insurance is scary, but you’re not alone. Credit.com has resources to help you through. Check out our additional resources below—and if you need more help, you can reach out to tipswithtiff@credit.com for help from Credit Tips with Tiff.

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