How to continue your health insurance coverage
If you decide to quit your job, you don’t need to go without health insurance. A number of options allow you to continue or replace your coverage. The right insurance option for you depends on a variety of factors, like your budget, health situation, and number of dependents.
Join a spouse’s or parent’s plan
Best for: People who have a spouse or parent with health insurance
If you have a spouse or partner with job-based health insurance, you may be able to join their plan when your coverage ends. They’ll need to check with their insurance provider or human resources department for information on how to do so.
Your parents may also add you to their insurance plan as a dependent if you’re under the age of 26. Since your job loss would be considered a “qualifying event,” you may join their plan at any time, not just during open enrollment.
While this option will cost your spouse or parent additional money, it’ll likely cost less than investing in your own health insurance plan. You can always pay them for your share of their premium.
Must have a spouse, partner, or parent with health insurance
Will increase premiums of spouse, partner, or parent
May need to find an alternative option once you turn 26
Enroll in COBRA
Best for: People who want to keep the health insurance plan they had when they were employed until they find a different, more affordable option
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, more commonly known as COBRA, gives employees who lose health insurance coverage the right to continue receiving it for a limited time after they quit or get laid off.
Though this choice feels ideal, COBRA tends to be quite expensive because it requires you to pay the full premium plus a 2% administration fee. If your employer helped cover your health insurance while you were employed, it’s now up to you to fund the entire tab. Also, COBRA typically expires after 18 months from the date you quit.
Allows you to continue the health insurance coverage you had with your former employer
Bridges the health insurance gap until you find or qualify for another plan
You have 60 days to accept COBRA
Must pay the full premium
Will likely be charged a 2% administration fee
Coverage usually ends after 18 months
Shop on the ACA Marketplace
Best for: People who don’t mind shopping around to find affordable coverage for themselves and their families
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you can use the Health Insurance Marketplace on Healthcare.gov to shop for your own coverage. The tool will allow you to compare the prices of various individual and family plans so you can home in on the right one for your specific insurance situation. It will also help inform you if you’re eligible for any premium tax credits or special programs, like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The ACA Marketplace offers a special enrollment period for people or families with a qualifying life event, like the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance. Depending on your special enrollment period, it will either start 60 days before or 60 days after the event. Compared to COBRA, Marketplace plans tend to be more affordable.
Must shop around and find the right plan
Potentially pricey premiums
Must shop during the special enrollment period
Explore Medicaid or Medicare
Best for: People with low income or those who are at least 65, have a disability, or have end-stage renal disease
Medicaid is a federal program designed to help low-income Americans with health insurance coverage. If your income reaches up to 138% of the federal poverty level, you may be eligible to sign up through your state. Medicaid offers affordable health insurance coverage with no or low premiums. But your income can’t exceed a certain threshold, and finding providers that accept Medicaid coverage can be difficult.
Medicare provides coverage for those who are 65 or older, living with a disability, or have end-stage renal disease. Part A, also known as hospital insurance, is free if you’re at least 65 and have worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. You’ll have to pay a premium for Part B, or medical insurance, and Part D, which covers prescriptions.
Free or low-cost health insurance
Available to qualifying residents in all states
Covers a variety of services
Learn More: The Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid, Explained
Consider temporary health insurance
Best for: Healthy people who want health insurance coverage for unexpected medical bills until they find a long-term solution
Also known as short-term health insurance, temporary health insurance can help bridge the gap while you search for long-term coverage. Since the ACA doesn’t regulate this type of insurance, the coverage doesn’t need to provide the minimum essential health benefits, like inpatient and outpatient hospital care, mental health services, and prescription drug coverage. Coverage for pre-existing conditions also isn’t mandatory.
This temporary coverage typically lasts for 12 months at a time and may only be renewed twice. Fortunately, you can sign up for it at any time and don’t have to wait for an open enrollment period like you would with other types of plans.
Typically only lasts for up to three years
Doesn’t always offer minimum essential health benefits
Pre-existing conditions may not be covered
Read More: Do I Need Health Insurance Coverage?