Health insurance during a pandemic. what to do if you lost your job

Lost Your Health Insurance? Here are Some Options

by Kaitlyn Ranze | 20 July 2020

Half of all U.S. workers receive their health insurance through their employer; with record-setting unemployment numbers this year, America is facing a massive wave of dilemmas covering the rising costs of healthcare

The Covid-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to understand your healthcare options. If you’ve lost your job, you have a couple courses of action.

The Health Insurance Marketplace

If you’ve lost your job within the last sixty days, you can apply for insurance through the healthcare marketplace. Check local rules, because some states are extending this enrollment period and you may have an extended period of eligibility. With the ACA, your state is required by federal law to host a health insurance marketplace. There you can shop your options and check eligibility

Depending on your household income, you may qualify for subsidies to cover your premiums and out-of-pockets expenses through the marketplace.

Additionally, if you or your spouse has suffered a loss of income, you may qualify to switch to a different plan and apply for subsidies that you may not have previously been qualified to receive. 

Other qualifying events for special enrollment besides loss of employer-based health insurance include divorce, marriage, birth or adoption, and aging out of your parents’ health plan. For a more comprehensive list of qualifying events, see the infograph below or click this link.

You qualify for a special period of enrollment in the healthcare marketplace with loss of insurance, change in residence, and change in household.

If you missed your window for enrollment, you can wait until open enrollment with the marketplace. Open enrollment is the yearly period when you can enroll in health insurance. For the marketplace, usually this is between November 1st to December 15th.

Qualifying for Medicaid

Depending on which state you live in, your household size, and your income, you may qualify for Medicaid coverage. In all states, Medicaid provides health coverage for some low income adults, pregnant women, children, and disabled. This comes to more than 64 million Americans. In some states, Medicaid covers adults below a certain income level. Click here to see if you qualify based on income.  

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

COBRA gives workers and their families who lose their healthcare from their employer the right to extend their group health benefits plan.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their healthcare from their employer the right to extend their group health benefits plan. Though this coverage is for a limited period of time and under a certain set of circumstances, it can actually bridge the gap between insurances between employers since you can keep this plan for up to 18 months after job loss.

Even a brief gap in coverage could lead to an expensive financial disaster. A medical emergency such as an appendectomy can range from $10,000 to $35,000. It’s no wonder that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. (Have we mentioned the need to set up your emergency fund, yet?)

But coverage under COBRA can also be expensive: Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102% of the cost to the plan. This includes the entire premium plus the cost of administration.

Coverage through COBRA still might be a good fit for you if you’ve already met your deductible for the year.

Accessing Insurance : Pro Tips

  1. Losing your job also qualifies you for a special enrollment period through your spouse’s insurance. Contact their H.R. department to see how long you have to enroll.
  2. If you’re under 26, you’re still eligible to be placed under your parents’ plan. Contact their human resources department to see if you qualify for special enrollment if it’s outside their open enrollment.
    Fun fact: You can remain on your parents plan even if you are married or financially independent, or eligible to enroll into your employer’s plan.
  3. If you still have your job, but just never enrolled in insurance, you may still be able to enroll through a plan in the marketplace. Many states have opted to reopen enrollment due to Covid, meaning you can still get coverage for the remainder of the year.
  4. If you’re eligible for Medicare but opted for your job-based health insurance plan, you can still enroll in Medicare for up to eight months after your group health plan ends. 

The right health insurance plan can help make you financially resilient in light of Covid-19 or an accident. Knowing your options and utilizing all available resources can help you maximize your available benefits during an economic crisis and global pandemic. To understand the terms of health insurance in general, click here.


Prepare for the unexpected. Having life insurance gives your family options by providing financial benefits to pay off debt and pay for housing and ongoing living expenses. Not sure where to start? Bestow breaks down your coverage questions and the process is 100% online.

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