Peace of Mind: Medical Insurance Options for the Unemployed

According to the US Census Bureau, 45.7 million people in the United States did not have health coverage at some point in 2007. With current unemployment being twice what it was in 2007, time will likely reveal even more staggering data for the current number of uninsured Americans. While legislators are working on this ongoing problem, there are some more immediate solutions for gaining insurance, even if one is unemployed.

As everyone knows, health issues seem to strike when you least expect them, or when you are completely unprepared. So here, we will walk you through options for gaining insurance to cover yourself for the time being, if you are unemployed or not working at a company that offers health benefits.

  1. For the recently unemployed: If you are recently unemployed from a job in which you did have health insurance, check into continuing enrollment in that former employer's health insurance program for up to 18 months, based upon the COBRA law. This will allow you to continue with your current insurance while seeking a new position and settling into the programs of your new employer. A helpful website for guidance is www.cobrainsurance.com. Remember that you only have a 60 day election period after your job termination in which to continue your former employer's benefits, so don't wait too long to start exploring this critical option.
  2. Individual coverage: Whether employed or unemployed, you may seek coverage through an individual insurance plan wherein you can select the options most suitable for your specific needs. If you purchase a plan while unemployed and then gain employment that provides insurance as part of your benefits package, you may opt into the new employer's coverage or retain your own plan from the individual policy.

There are several types of individual coverage, some with all of the "bells and whistles" of coverage and those of the bare minimum. Your current health and financial situation will likely be the determining factors toward which you consider most appropriate for you. The primary ones for those seeking lower-cost options are listed below:

  • Temporary: According to Peter Bielagus, author of the book "Getting Loaded: Make a Million While You’re Still Young Enough to Enjoy It," you can find a temporary policy for three six month renewal increments (up to 18 months) that costs as low as $40 per month. The trick with temporary policies is in ensuring that you are covered well enough for the time being, and don't in any way compromise your eligibility for future insurance needs. Ensure all of your questions or concerns are answered through your insurance agent, before taking out a temporary health policy.
  • Limited Benefit Plans: If you need primarily doctor's visits and prescriptions covered and are in low-risk, very good health, you may opt for limited benefit insurance. These plans walk a fine line with high risk, however, in that they do not typically offer coverage for emergency room visits or hospitalization. Consider what is best for your situation and proceed cautiously with the best limited plan possible for you.
  • High Deductible Plans: If you are young and/or healthy, a high deductible plan may work well for your situation. You will be accepting the financial liability for paying more out of pocket if you do need to go to the doctor, but meanwhile your day-to-day needs will be covered through a much lower premium and a deductible that should prove far less financially catastrophic than a doctor's visit or hospitalization without any coverage.

A helpful non-profit resource for finding the right health insurance fit for your situation can be found at: www.coverageforall.org.

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Insurer Network

United Health Care Aetna Anthem Humana
Cigna Assurant Blue Cross Kaiser