Health Insurance Options for the Unemployed

Health insurance options for the unemployed are not as intimidating or as scarce as you would think. The Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as ObamaCare) has opened up new opportunities for unemployed Americans to obtain coverage. Learn more about your health insurance options for the unemployed in our guide below.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Unemployment does not mean that one has to suffer without health insurance. As it turns out, the government would prefer to keep even the unemployed insured in order to keep costs down. While being unemployed is a disadvantage in the health insurance marketplace, it does not disqualify one from receiving coverage.

The Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as ObamaCare) has opened up new opportunities for unemployed Americans to obtain coverage. Marketplace exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act make it possible for the unemployed to choose a low cost plan that works for them.

Options Based On Income

The quantity of options available to someone is based strongly on their overall household income. The government’s website,, has a helpful tool for helping those who are unemployed tabulate their overall income. Just because one does not have a job does not mean that there is not some form of income coming to their home.

A spouse’s income may be considered in these tabulations as well as any government unemployment benefits that are received. Essentially, any amount of money that one receives could be deemed as income if one is unemployed. This will need to be totaled up to determine the options available on the healthcare exchange for someone.

The COBRA Plan

Those researching their healthcare options have likely come across something known as COBRA. This too is a government program that exists to help the unemployed receive some healthcare insurance. However, with this plan one is essentially paying for the full amount of their coverage without any assistance in payment from an employer. Depending upon the plan that one chooses, it could be rather expensive. Still, this program is preferable to having no insurance at all.

COBRA is intended to be used as a short term health insurance coverage plan while one is between jobs. To remains on the program for too long a period of time would be a huge economic drain, particularly to someone who is persistently unemployed.

For those may require them during a temporary lapse in employment, you should ask an agent or research more about COBRA. It is wise to at least have some information on these plans as one never knows when they might be necessary for their particular situation. No one wants to think that they will lose their job, but it can happen at the most unexpected of times.

Medicaid for Low Income Individuals

The unemployed are by definition low income in most circumstances. Unless there is a household where one partner has lost his or her job but the other makes a sizable income, most without a job are low income. That being said, there are some other requirements to meet the Medicaid threshold.

One must meet certain housing requirements along with their low income requirements to be considered qualified to receive Medicaid. This also is a government program of course, and it is something that one should remain on only temporarily. Looking for work while covered by any unemployed insurance plan is always the best solution.

Selecting the Minimum Coverage

The unemployed must select their health care coverage wisely. They do not have the extra money to lay down for a full coverage plan. Rather, they should try to do what they can to find a plan that is as affordable as possible while providing at least some coverage. For the time being, a plan that covers major medical bills is probably the best plan.

Most health insurance plans cover a free yearly physical and will help in the event of a major injury or accident. However, the cheaper health plans are not likely to cover routine medical procedure costs. If these procedures can be avoided for the time being, that is desirable. The unemployed must do all that they can to change their situation and try to become employed once again as soon as possible. Then and only then can they begin to think about their health care options going forward.

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