Here’s how to navigate your health insurance options to find the coverage you need.
If losing your job and your paycheck isn’t hard enough, it often also means losing your health insurance. This can be a challenging time, but remember, when it comes to getting covered, you have options. Avoid a lapse in health insurance — and the new California state financial penalty that comes with it — by understanding your choices and selecting the best path for you and your family. This process may seem overwhelming if you’ve never done it before, but here’s a guide to help you through.
Check Your Spousal Benefits
If your spouse or domestic partner has a job that provides health insurance, you might be able to get covered under their plan. He or she may need to contribute more to their employer-sponsored health insurance, but this is often an easy, lower-cost option.
Find Out If COBRA Is Right for You
In California, you have the legal right to continue on your former company’s group health insurance plan for a set period of time after a job loss through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or COBRA.1 COBRA can be a simple temporary solution, but it comes at a cost. Because your company will no longer be pitching in, you will be responsible for the full cost of the plan yourself — plus an administrative fee. Some people choose COBRA because they feel strongly about keeping the same health care providers. Keep in mind that COBRA coverage typically only lasts 18 to 36 months, so this isn’t a forever solution.
Look Into Purchasing a New Plan
You can also buy a health plan directly from an insurance company. If you’re shopping for a plan, explore Covered California, a free service that connects California residents with brand-name health insurance companies such as Anthem, Blue Shield, Kaiser, Health Net and more. Through Covered California, you will be able to shop for and compare various plans to find the one that works best for you.
Covered California is also the only place where you can apply for financial help to lower the cost of your monthly health insurance premium. With both federal and state help available for those who qualify, this can make a big difference, especially during a time when money might be tight. Households that qualify for financial help in California include individuals making up to $76,560 or families of four bringing in up to $157,200.2
See if You Qualify for Medi-Cal
If your annual income is reduced significantly due to job loss, Medi-Cal might be an option. Medi-Cal provides free or low-cost health insurance for qualified applicants including low-income families, people with disabilities, pregnant women and more. In 2020, the Medi-Cal income limit for an individual is $17,609 and $36,156 for a family of four.3 You can apply for Medi-Cal through Covered California as well.
When to Apply
While this is an important decision, don’t wait too long to choose a solution. Losing health insurance coverage — no matter if you were laid off, let go with cause, you quit or any other reason — qualifies you to apply through Covered California 60 days before and after the date your coverage stops.4 This period is called special enrollment. You also qualify for special enrollment if your COBRA coverage runs out.
Losing your job can be a challenging life event, but know that you have the options and support you need to find a health insurance plan that will provide security and peace of mind.