What should I do about a health insurance gap between jobs?
Had benefits at a job you are now leaving? You may be worried about a health insurance gap between jobs. But remember that you have the option of COBRA health insurance. COBRA health insurance allows you to continue the health insurance you had from your employer for up to 18 months. In some cases, you may be able to continue coverage through COBRA for 36 months. (One example of that is if you turned 26 and aged out of a parent’s plan.) Either way, there is one key thing to remember. Before, you had your employer contributing towards the costs of your monthly premiums. With COBRA you’ll now be expected to cover those premiums 100% yourself to keep that same health insurance plan.
Losing your health insurance due to a job loss, voluntary or involuntary, will qualify you for COBRA coverage. So that means whether you lose your job or choose to leave your job, you would be eligible. You might also qualify for COBRA if you lost coverage as a result of a divorce, a child’s loss of dependent status, a reduction of hours, taking medical leave, or even a strike. You won’t, however, qualify for COBRA if you lose your job due to “gross misconduct.” COBRA, however, can be more expensive than shopping the Health Insurance Marketplace—see the pros and cons in this comparison between COBRA and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care plans.
Special Enrollment Period for Obamacare
You can also enroll in an Obamacare plan. Losing health insurance provided through an employer makes you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). This means that you’re eligible to shop the Marketplace. A Special Enrollment Period lasts for 60 days from the time your employer-provided benefits end. During that window you’ll need to sign-up for and pay the first premium on your new Obamacare plan. Enrolling during this time prevents a health insurance gap between jobs. Grab our free step-by-step guide to enrolling in Marketplace health insurance here to learn more.
You can also enroll in ACA health coverage during Open Enrollment Period. You can do so then without a Special Enrollment Period. Open Enrollment Period lasts from November 1 to January 15. Given the possibilities of premium tax credits and other forms of savings and subsidies, a Marketplace plan may cost much less than continuing your health insurance through COBRA.
Searching for a Marketplace plan will also let you know if you qualify for Medicaid, or if any of your dependents qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) as a result of your income.
You can shop the Marketplace for ACA health insurance here or call (872) 228-2549 to learn more.
One option that experts do not recommend is short-term health insurance plans. Experts do not advise using these short-term plans to replace regular health insurance because short-term health insurance plans do not offer the consumer protections laid out by the ACA—they typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions, maternity coverage, prescription drugs, or other benefits that the Affordable Care Act requires in Marketplace plans.
Feel free to contact a member of the HealthSherpa Consumer Advocate Team at (872) 228-2549 to find out more about your health insurance options and to begin the process of signing-up for an Obamacare plan during a Special Enrollment Period. A health insurance gap between jobs isn’t something you need to be worried about. You can get coverage.