How to Get Health Insurance Without a Job

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Contributor, Benzinga
April 26, 2022

Most adults get their health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan. But what happens if you don’t have a job or have a job that doesn’t provide health insurance coverage? Fortunately, there are several options for those who are unemployed or can’t get health insurance from their employer. Learn how to get health insurance without a job using our useful tips and tricks.

What To Do When You Lose Your Job

When you lose a job, a lot of things happen. The most immediate worry is usually about how you’ll make enough money to pay your bills and live a comfortable life. Another major worry is how to afford and receive healthcare coverage.

First, it’s important to assess your situation. This can include looking at the money you have in a savings account or set aside as an emergency fund. You may also want to think about your next steps as far as getting another job. But, for the time being, you simply need to find ways to get to that next step.

Step 1: File for unemployment

After you lose your job, filing for unemployment should be your first step. Unemployment claims can take some time to process, so it’s important to do this as soon as possible. You can file for unemployment online by visiting your state’s department of labor website. If you’re unable to do it online, you can also file a new unemployment insurance claim by calling your state’s phone line. 

Step 2: Begin the search for health insurance

Next, it’s time to start searching for health insurance. If you had health insurance through your employer, you may have until the end of the week or the end of the month before your plan will be terminated. Make sure to look into health insurance options for each member of your family if a spouse or dependents were also covered by your health insurance plan. 

Insurance for Everyone

No matter what your situation is, there’s sure to be a health insurance plan that can meet your needs and your budget. Explore each of these options to see which one makes the most sense for you and your family. 

The Marketplace

Any U.S. citizen or national living in the United States is eligible for Marketplace health coverage, as long as the person is not incarcerated. The Marketplace has an open enrollment period each year, which is when the general public purchases a health insurance plan to begin coverage at the start of the following year. Typically, the open enrollment period runs from November through December 15th each year. 

When you lose your health insurance coverage because you’ve lost your job, you qualify for the special enrollment period. This allows you to purchase a health insurance plan outside of the open enrollment period. By purchasing a health insurance plan through the marketplace, you may be eligible for premium tax credits and other savings based on your household size and income. 


Medicaid provides low-cost or free health insurance coverage to Americans who are eligible based on their income or disabilities. There are 2 ways to apply for this type of coverage. When you fill out an application through the Health Insurance Marketplace, your state agency will contact you if you qualify for Medicaid. You can also apply directly for Medicaid through your state’s Medicaid agency. Some Medicaid programs pay for your care directly, while others may provide coverage through private insurance companies. 


The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost health coverage to children if their family earns too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, CHIP can also provide coverage for pregnant women. For families who do qualify for Medicaid, children can receive either Medicaid or CHIP coverage. You can apply for CHIP the same way as you do for Medicaid — either through the Marketplace or your state Medicaid agency.


COBRA — short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act — is a health insurance program that may help you after you’ve lost your job. If you have employer-sponsored health coverage, your employer will stop paying its share of your health insurance premium after you lose your job or otherwise become ineligible. This is why you lose the health insurance plan. But with COBRA, you can continue the health insurance coverage, as long as you’re willing to take over the full cost of the health insurance premium. 

It’s important to note that COBRA is not available for everybody. Some employers are mandated to offer COBRA coverage, but not all of them are. Small businesses are less likely to offer COBRA coverage.

To qualify, you as the employee must also be enrolled in the employer-sponsored health insurance plan on the day that you lose your job, and you must have had it for more than 50% of the employer’s business days in the last calendar year. If your employer offers COBRA coverage, you’ll have at least 60 days to enroll in continued coverage after losing your job. COBRA is usually a more expensive option than alternatives such as shopping for a plan in the Marketplace, but for some people, it might be worth it.

Healthcare Co-ops

Healthcare cooperatives (co-ops) are private, non-profit and state-licensed health insurance carriers. The co-ops are owned and operated by the patients who are insured by its plans, and all of the members/owners share the cost of care. The larger a co-op is and the more profit it gains, the lower the expenses get for its members. Healthcare co-ops can be formed at national, state or local levels and might include doctors, hospitals and businesses as members/owners. The health insurance plans sold by a co-op can be found either within the Marketplace or outside of the Marketplace. There are very few healthcare co-ops that are still selling plans in 2021, and they’re only available in 5 states: Idaho, Maine, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Temporary Health Insurance

If you don't qualify for the above options but still want to carry healthcare coverage, temporary or short-term health insurance may be your answer. These plans may have more affordably monthly premiums (although this usually comes with some downsides, like lower annual maximums and non-ACA complaint plans.) Compare temporary healthcare below.

No-Enrollment Period, Open Network Health Care Coverage

Sidecar Health Access Plan is 1 option for those who need health insurance between jobs but can still afford to pay toward your healthcare. With no enrollment period and an open network, it's a solid solution for those who need coverage at any time.

Sidecar Health offers a new approach to healthcare -- the first step is to choose your customized benefit plan. This benefit plan will transparently show what you'll pay for each procedure, prescription drug and test. From there, find your provider (or keep your existing one) -- you can even compare exact prices between different doctors to choose where you'll go for what.

Use your Sidecar Health VISA benefit card to pay up front for your medical expenses as well as unlock your benefits. Submit your reimbursement claim using an itemized receipt to Sidecar Health using their app -- and that's that!

  • securely through Sidecar Health Access Plan's website
    securely through Sidecar Health Access Plan's website
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    No enrollment period health insurance
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    Plans referred to above are excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance products marketed and administered by Sidecar Health Insurance Solutions, LLC and underwritten by Sirius America Insurance Company or United States Fire Insurance Company, depending on the state. As an excepted benefit plan, it does not provide comprehensive/major medical expenses coverage, minimum essential coverage, or essential health benefits. You cannot receive a subsidy (premium tax credit and/or cost-sharing reduction) under the ACA in connection with your purchase of such an excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance plan. Also, the termination or loss of this policy does not entitle you to a special enrollment period to purchase a health benefit plan that qualifies as minimum essential coverage outside of an open enrollment period. Coverage and plan options may vary or may not be available in all states.

Don’t Be Afraid To Change Insurance Plans

The health insurance plan that is best for you at one point in your life might not be your best option later. Don’t be afraid to compare plans and reassess later — especially if your circumstances change. For example, if you lost your job that offered health insurance coverage but still had income coming in from a part-time job, you might not qualify for Medicaid.

But then if you lose your income from the part-time job, your reduced income level may qualify you the next time open enrollment comes around. Or if you make just over the income limit for Medicaid, it might be worth seeing whether your children are eligible for Medicaid. 

Splitting up coverage can help you save money in the long run and may help you receive better benefits for the entire family. There’s no harm in checking in periodically to see what new insurance plans are available to you.

Stay Informed

No one wants to lose their job, but it can present an opportunity to reassess all different aspects of your life. Now that you know where to turn for health insurance coverage, think about what else you might want to change in your life. Benzinga is here to help you stay in the loop and make the best financial decisions for yourself and your family. 

Frequently Asked Questions


How much does health insurance cost without a job?


In 2020, the average national cost for health insurance was $456 for an individual and $1,152 for a family. However, that number can vary greatly based on your income, health and other factors. That’s why it’s important to get health insurance quotes so you can review the options that are available to you.


How do I get health insurance if I’m unemployed?


The best thing to do if you’re unemployed is to apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This will show you the plans you are eligible for, and you can enroll directly in a plan from there.