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What to Do If You’ve Lost Your Health Insurance

A doctor consulting a patient about healthcare options.

Being without health insurance can be scary. Your well-being depends on taking the steps you need to protect your family now and in the future.

Whether the business you work for is shutting down temporarily or it needs to scale back its staff, make sure to ask your employer when your last day of health coverage is. This will help you better understand what timeline you have for your existing health care coverage. It helps ensure that you don’t have a gap in your coverage. Once you have this information, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you have health insurance to keep you and your family healthy. Let’s take a look at some options to consider.

Coverage Options to Consider

Sign up for COBRA.

  • Short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, this option allows you to retain and continue your current employer's health coverage for up to 18 months. This allows your current coverage to stay the same – the same doctors, networks, co-pays, and deductibles.
  • The downside is that you will pay your entire monthly health insurance premiums yourself. That premium will include the part you usually paid plus any amount your employer was paying.
  • You’ll want to find out if this option is financially feasible for you.

Join your spouse’s health coverage.

  • If your spouse has health insurance, you may be able to be added to your spouse’s healthcare plan coverage.
  • Have your spouse talk with their human resources department to ask what options are available.
  • The cost of that coverage will come out of your spouse’s paycheck, so before you make the decision, you may want to comparison shop.

Apply for Medicaid and/or CHIP coverage.

  • Medicaid and Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide free or low-cost health coverage to millions of Americans, including some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
  • If your income is low, you may be eligible for Medicaid (which covers families) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (which covers children only).
  • To apply, visit the South Dakota Department of Social Services website for information.

Buy a health insurance Marketplace plan.

  • The Affordable Care Act introduced an online health insurance Marketplace that allows you to buy a private plan.
  • You're generally entitled to apply for a new plan if you lose your existing health coverage, even if the annual open-enrollment period to sign up for Marketplace plans has passed (November 1 – December 15).
  • You have 60 days before your current health insurance plan expires and 60 days after your plan expires. If you don’t enroll during this period, you can’t enroll through the Marketplace and need to wait until open enrollment in November of each year. You can find information about this at the Marketplace website.
  • The benefit of the Marketplace plans is that, depending on your income, you may qualify for subsidies and tax credits. This can reduce the cost of the premiums.
  • There are several different plans to choose from. All of them have a deductible (the amount you need to pay before health insurance pays for care) and typically the lower the monthly premiums, the higher the deductible.
  • If you qualify for tax credits and subsidies for the premium, that may offset the higher deductible amount, so the overall out-of-pocket costs may even out.
  • Be advised, that to get credits and subsidies, you need to purchase the plans through the Marketplace or an accredited health insurance broker/provider.
  • To find out how much of a subsidy you may qualify for you can, visit the website. It will ask you for some information and then will direct you to the next steps.

Related Topics

Family Finances, Health