What To Do When You Find Yourself Unexpectedly Without Health Insurance

Getting laid off or losing a job isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Millions found themselves in that situation this year with the sudden shutdown of everything except essential industries. Not only have you lost your job, but you have also lost your health insurance. That is a big worry for you as you have a family that could have medical needs or maybe you have chronic issues yourself that needs maintenance.

There could be other reasons you lost your health insurance such as divorce or death. Fortunately, you have options when these types of life events happen.

What Do You Do Now?

The first thing to do is to call your doctors to see if they can help you defray the costs of upcoming appointments or prescriptions. Sometimes, a doctor can put in a prescription coming up that day so you can get it filled before your insurance is officially canceled.

There are also telehealth services available to some disenfranchised groups. Find out if your doctor participates in those to help with immediate medical questions while you get reinsured.

Call the insurance company you are with and see if they have any options for you to review. Sometimes, they can offer you care directly and there would be consistency if you stick with them. One of those options could be gap insurance, which is insurance that pays for things like emergency visits, catastrophic events like cancer, and other types of things even though it won’t pay for a routine doctor’s visit.

Do Not Panic

Depending on the situation and your employer, your benefits may not stop immediately. Typically, a layoff situation has a time period for benefits to expire. In other situations, an employer may allow you to keep your benefits for 30 days to give you a chance to find other options. 

Even if your benefits end immediately, there are things you can do to receive immediate coverage.

Sign up for COBRA

You have a right to continue your health insurance coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). Your employer must give you information on how to sign up for COBRA when they do an exit interview. You can stay on COBRA for a maximum of 18 months.

The downside of COBRA is that it is expensive. You must pay the entire premium yourself instead of paying only the employee contribution with your employer paying the rest. You will also be required to pay an administrative fee.

Other Options At Your Disposal

The Federal Health Insurance Marketplace

The Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) has an open enrollment period once a year in the fall but will allow you to obtain health insurance from the marketplace if you had a life-changing event. That includes job loss, death, divorce, and other major events. The healthcare.gov website lists plans under the federal network you can buy and you can sign up immediately.

State Health Insurance Exchanges

Depending on where you live, you can participate in a state exchange. There are 13 state-sponsored healthcare marketplace exchanges. Other states have done things like expanding Medicaid to meet the needs of lower-income families that typically wouldn’t qualify and partnering with the federal government to use the federal platform in a state exchange.

Private Health Insurance Exchanges

There are private marketplace exchanges that offer a variety of health insurance products. These operate much the same way the state and federal exchanges do but are a private company with all its products coming from private companies.

Private exchanges must offer insurance that meets the federal guidelines of covering pre-existing conditions, free preventive care without capping annual benefits.

Every state is different regarding which exchanges are allowed to operate. The best thing to do to get more information is to Google something like “Arizona health insurance” to find out which options are available in your area.

Private Insurance Companies

You can also work directly with private insurance companies and obtain private plans, although this is usually not the most affordable option for individuals. You can talk to an agent, go online, or contact an insurance broker to see what the best deal would be if you take this route.

You should compare all choices to what you currently have to make sure there is as little disruption as possible. Also, be sure to ask if your doctors and hospitals and other facilities are on any plan you are looking to buy.

Knowledge is power. When you gain knowledge of all your options, you know you can make the right decision that is best for you and your family.

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