Health Insurance Options When You’re Newly Unemployed

Explore what options may be available when it comes to health coverage


If you’re newly unemployed or furloughed, you’re not alone. But here’s a little bit of good news: If you’ve lost your job-based health insurance, you may qualify to enroll in new coverage through the federal or state health insurance marketplaces.

Learn more about what insurance options may be available from the government—and what other alternatives are out there.

What Are Health Insurance Marketplaces?

Health insurance marketplaces are services where people can shop and enroll in health insurance plans. Marketplaces are also sometimes called health insurance exchanges.

The federal health insurance marketplace was established by the Affordable Care Act. Some states and Washington, D.C., now run their own marketplaces.

If you need a refresher on how things work, you can consult Capital One’s insurance shopping guide

When Am I Eligible to Enroll in New Coverage?

If you’ve recently lost coverage, the marketplaces could connect you with a new plan. There are strict guidelines that typically define when you can enroll. But if you’ve lost your job-based coverage due to COVID-19, you may qualify for a special enrollment period.

It’s important to enroll within 60 days of losing your job-based coverage. In many cases, if you’ve already lost coverage, your new plan could kick in on the first of the month after you’ve applied and enrolled. 

You can also apply if you expect to lose coverage in the next 60 days. Applying early may help you ensure there’s no gap in your coverage. And if it turns out you don’t need your new federal health plan, you can cancel at any time. If your coverage is from a state marketplace, the cancellation process may be different. Be sure to check the cancellation terms of your coverage plan.

Young people may have another option: If you’re under 26 years old, your parents may be able to add you to their plan.

What If I’ve Been Furloughed?

Depending on the status of your job-based plan, you could be eligible for a special enrollment period during furlough—as well as a premium tax credit to help you pay for coverage.

If you still have your current coverage but are worried you won’t be able to make your monthly payments, consider contacting your insurance company to see if they can offer assistance.

What If My Hours Have Been Reduced, but I’m Still Working?

If you are enrolled in a federal plan, and you’ve had your hours reduced or lost income, you may be eligible for more savings. You should update your application immediately to report any income changes. In cases like this, timing is critical: The marketplace says to update your income within 30 days.

Is COBRA Coverage an Option?

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, you may be able to extend the term of your job-based health insurance plan. This kind of insurance is called continuation coverage. 

Keep in mind, the availability and length of COBRA coverage can vary based on your situation. 

Before you elect to go with a COBRA plan, you might want to compare the costs to other health insurance options, including plans on the federal or state marketplaces. When you choose continuation coverage, you may be responsible for all the insurance costs yourself. That can make COBRA much more expensive, especially if your employer paid for part of your monthly premium while you were employed. 

Does the Federal Marketplace Offer Additional Support?

Even with health insurance, there are still costs you may need to cover out of pocket. And that can be tough to manage if you're out of work. But there may be additional help available if you qualify for programs like Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

When it comes to the federal and state marketplaces, your eligibility for coverage or programs like Medicaid or CHIP won’t be affected if you’ve received government relief in the form of an economic impact payment.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you’ve just lost your job. But Capital One has resources that may help you navigate unemployment claims, bills and other COVID-19 government relief efforts.


Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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