How to Get Health Insurance If You Are Unemployed

It’s no secret that Americans need health insurance; without it, the cost of any health care that you may require can be financially crippling. The majority of Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance, meaning that their job provides health insurance benefits.

health insurance for the unemployedBut, what happens if you’re unemployed? Perhaps you have recently lost your job or you’ve graduated college, are over the age of 26 and no longer on your parent’s policy and haven’t found a job yet. If you aren’t working, can you get health insurance? Absolutely! However, it should be noted that you do want to shop with caution and carefully weigh your options so that you can be certain you are choosing the best option for your needs. Unfortunately, many insurance options that are available for unemployed individuals charge exorbitant fees and offer limited coverage, which is definitely not what you want.

So, how do you go about finding health insurance if you aren’t working? Here’s a look at a list of some of the most common options that are available for unemployed individuals.


If you qualify, Medicaid is one the most affordable health insurance options for low-income individuals; it also offers decent coverage. This federal and state health insurance program provides assistance for individuals who are unemployed or who have a limited income. You do need to meet certain qualifications in order to be eligible; however, since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010, which included an expansion of the Medicaid programs, more individuals qualify for this service. If you live below the federal poverty level, you can qualify for Medicaid; and, in some cases, you may be able to qualify if you live above the federal poverty level.

The expansion for Medicaid varies from state to state, but check to find out what the qualifications are for your state; you may be surprised to find out that you are eligible for this low cost insurance program.


If you are unemployed and 65 years of age or older, you may qualify for Medicare. Like Medicaid, Medicare is a federally funded health insurance program that is specifically intended for senior citizens. This program is sponsored by the Social Security Administration. If you are under the age of 65 and you are unemployed and receiving Social Security benefits, you may qualify for Medicare, too.


The Consolidate Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is another option if you are unemployed. This health insurance program makes it possible to extend your health insurance coverage from your previous employer (if you’ve been let go). For individuals who have specific medical needs and have lost their job, COBRA is a particularly good option because it allows you to keep your previous coverage – which may have included coverage for the treatments that you are receiving. While the premiums for COBRA are usually pretty high, it’s a viable option if you require health insurance and you are unemployed. However, do note that it should not be considered a long-term solution; you should invest in more affordable plan as soon as possible.

High Deductible Plans

Another affordable health insurance option for individuals who are unemployed is a high deductible health insurance plan. These plans are a short-term option, and they may offer limited coverage; however, they do provide health insurance at an affordable rate when no other options are available. Do keep in mind, though, that while the monthly premiums are lower, the deductible is higher, and you do have to meet it (and cover the cost out of your pocket when you require medical services).


Obamacare (formally known as the Affordable Care Act or ACA) is another option for individuals who are unemployed and require insurance. You don’t need to be employed to purchase a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace; plus, there are a variety of plans available that can meet a wide variety of budgets. These plans also offer coverage for treatments for individuals who have pre-existing medical conditions and you cannot be denied coverage; but, do keep in mind that lower cost policies offer less coverage and unless you have a qualifying circumstance, you will have to purchase coverage during the Open Enrollment period (if you are unemployed because you lost your job, you would qualify for the Special Enrollment period, so you can sign up for coverage at any time).

Individual Plans

You could also shop for a health insurance plan for yourself or for you and your family, just like you would shop for car or homeowners insurance. These policies are much like an employer-sponsored policy; do make sure that you shop around to find the most affordable rates that will meet your specific needs, as the cost can be exorbitant if you aren’t working.

Short-Term Health Plans

You could also invest in a short-term health plan. As the name suggests, this type of plan offers coverage for a short period of time. The rates can be high and they usually don’t offer the best coverage; but, they do fill in the gaps while you are looking for new work with an employer that offers insurance benefits.

Discount Cards

Lastly, you could use a health insurance discount card. With this card, you would receive lower health care services, which is provided as benefits when you enroll in a program. While it’s not considered “health insurance” a discount card can provide you with lower cost medical care while you are unemployed.

Final Thoughts

Health insurance is a must in the United States, but many people assume they need to be employed in order to get the coverage they need. That’s not the case; if you aren’t working – for whatever reason – there are several options available that could provide you with the health insurance coverage you need.

If you need assistance finding a policy that will offer you the coverage you require while you aren’t working, consult with a reputable agent that specializes in health insurance.

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