11 Ways to Get Health Insurance With No Job or Little Money
If you are unemployed, self-employed, or have a low income, there are several options to explore to help find health insurance that you can afford.
By carefully reviewing different options and seeing what you are eligible for, some of these can offer you a better deal on your health costs than others. The key to finding low-cost health care is taking the time to shop around for a good plan, which can be frustrating. Here is a list of 11 common places that a person may look to get low-cost health insurance if you are not working, have low income, work reduced hours, or only part-time.
Where to Get Low-Cost Health Insurance
Most low-cost health insurance options have eligibility requirements, but reading through the list will help you understand which ones are available to you. If you feel like you are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid you can also contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program to help understand what they offer.
Since the Affordable Care Act, the number of people qualified to receive Medicaid increased dramatically, yet some people may not be aware. Anyone living below the poverty line may now qualify, including adults without children. There are also numerous exceptions, some of them allowing for income above the poverty line to qualify. The poverty guidelines are revised annually, so it is always a good idea to check if you meet the revised requirements. Medicaid expansion is up to each individual state you can contact your state insurance commissioner to find out the specifics.
High-Deductible Health Plans
Getting a high deductible health plan is a smart way to maintain a low-cost health insurance plan. When combined with a Health Savings Account (HSA) you can find ways to save money on your taxes while saving money on a long-term basis.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
COBRA plans are available in various circumstances. For example, if you are not employed, have had your work hours cut, or you or have been laid off, you may be eligible to continue your (previous) employers' health insurance through COBRA. For students going to college, you also may be able to continue on your parent's health insurance coverage through COBRA.
COBRA is also an option for people who may have lost their job and are still undergoing medical treatments.
If you were to switch to another insurance plan like a short-term plan (read more about this below), your current medical treatments may not qualify under the new health insurance plan, and the cost of short term health insurance is usually expensive.
COBRA may not be the most affordable health insurance option but can provide better coverage than other plans, depending on your needs and situation. Learn more about the pros and cons of COBRA here and explore all your options before making a decision.
Examples of eligibility for COBRA may include voluntary or involuntary job loss, having your hours cut, if you are transitioning between jobs, death, or other changes in family situations like divorce.
Many people don't realize that they may be covered under their state's Workers' Compensation program. If you are being treated for any work-related injury, your employer must offer you treatment under their Workers' Compensation program.
Medicare is provided by the government and administered by the Social Security Administration. If you are 65 or older, you could qualify for Medicare. You may also qualify if you are under 65 and getting Social Security disability benefits or have certain diseases.
The Health Insurance Marketplace
The Affordable Care Act changed the opportunities people with pre-existing conditions have. Marketplace plans cover treatment for pre-existing medical conditions.
Since 2014, no marketplace insurance plan can reject you, charge you more, or refuse to pay for essential health benefits for pre-existing conditions.
Individual and Family Health Insurance
You can get quotes from various health insurance companies and buy individual or family health insurance the same way you would buy a home or car insurance. These plans work similarly to what an employer would offer their employees, but you will not have an employer contribution to help reduce the cost of the insurance, so it will be more expensive than employer group health insurance.
Short-Term Health Insurance Coverage
Short-term health insurance coverage is a form of individual health insurance policy that only provides coverage for a very short length of time. People who need time to examine their individual and family health insurance choices but still would like to be minimally covered sometimes choose this option.
Examples of Problems With Short-Term Health Insurance Plans:
- They do not usually cover pre-existing medical conditions
- They do not meet the requirements of covering the minimum essential coverage of the ACA
- Short-Term health plans do not renew; after the term, you must re-apply for coverage again
- Short-term health plans do not allow you to receive a subsidy or tax credits as the ACA plans do
- Short-term health plans do not cover maternity care
- Many short-term health plans do not cover drug treatment or prescription drugs
- Short-Term health insurance plans are meant as a temporary solution when you can not find other major health care coverage or do not want major health coverage. Whenever possible it is better to find a long-term plan that meets the criteria of the ACA so that you do not have to keep worrying about finding temporary solutions
Group Insurance From Organization Memberships
It is often an overlooked source of affordable or low-cost health insurance. Some people are members of specific organizations that offer health insurance coverage. For example, people who are members of University Alumni Associations can obtain a variety of insurance choices. Although these organizations do not help pay the health insurance premiums as an employer would, the rates can be lower because of the group discount. Figure out what organizations you are a member of and see if they offer group health insurance. You can research organizations that provide group health insurance and join those groups or ask your current organizations that you are a member of to offer group health insurance. They may not realize they could offer a plan to their members. If you are able to get health insurance through an organization, be sure and ask if it is ACA compliant and explore your options carefully.
Group Health Expenses Sharing Plan/Health Care Sharing Ministry (HCSM)
A health expense sharing plan is not insurance but can be an option if you can find a reputable group that has been successfully doing this for a long time. A health expense sharing plan is when a group of people pool their money together and pay each others' health expenses. This is like self-insuring since the group is functioning like their own "insurance company." The contributions are pooled together and usually invested to accrue interest on the pooled funds. It works well when the participants are only using the money for major medical expenses. A health care sharing ministry (HCSM) is when a group of people who share similar beliefs decide to create a health expenses sharing plan. An HCSM is a non-profit entity and not an insurance company. It is important to note that these plans may have limitations that you would not normally find in insurance company plans. For example, restrictions on procedures the group finds morally objectionable. There are religious groups that use this model successfully. Examples of group expense sharing health plans are Medi-Share, and Samaritan Ministries, among others
Health Insurance Discount Cards
Health insurance discount cards allow the member to benefit from negotiated low-cost health services. It is not an insurance plan, but it is an option to explore if you have fully explored everything else, including the healthcare marketplace.
With a health insurance discount card, you pay a small monthly fee for membership so that when you go to the doctor or hospital, you will get a discounted rate on your services. Because it is not an insurance plan, you still end up paying all your medical costs, but you can get a discount. If you choose this option, you should still be working towards getting health insurance in the future.