Have You Lost Your Job Health Insurance?

by Wendy Barnett

When you have lost your job, your medical insurance from your employer can end, too.  Being without work can be a stressful time, but understanding your health insurance options doesn’t have to be. There are 4 important things to know when you have lost your job health insurance:

  1. COBRA will most likely be offered to you from your employer, but it is usually expensive and you do have other options
  2. Time is of the essence – There are rules about when you can apply for health insurance
  3. You may qualify for help such as Medi-Cal which can be free or an Advanced Premium Tax Credit (APTC) which lowers the cost of your health insurance
  4. In California, the California Exchange (Covered California) is the only place that offers APTC

Did you know that since Obamacare took effect that most people must apply for their health insurance during a particular period of time each year called Open Enrollment which occurs in the fall? Once Open Enrollment closes, a Special Enrollment Period begins in which applicants must experience a Qualifying Life Event in order to apply.

Qualifying Life Events (QLE) are big life occurrences called triggering life events that allow you to enroll in health insurance outside of the “normal” allowable time. There is a whole list of life events that can be applicable, but losing your employer health insurance due to a job loss or change, is typically an acceptable QLE.

You may have a QLE that allows you to enroll in health insurance during a Special Enrollment Period.  Here are the important guidelines if you have recently lost employer health insurance:

  • The date of the loss of coverage must have occurred within the last 60 days
  • Your loss must be involuntary
  • You must be able to provide verification to prove your loss of coverage and the loss event date upon request

It is important to know that Covered CA does require a random selection of applicants who enroll during Special Enrollment Period to provide verification documents for their qualifying life event.

How do I find out the date of my loss of coverage?

Ask your employer or the human resources department at your work about when your employer coverage will end.  You can apply up to 60 days before and up to 60 days after your loss event date.

What about quitting my job?

Losing your health insurance from your job because you quit can count as a life event! Just make sure to apply within 60 days.

If I cancel my COBRA coverage, will that be counted as a QLE?

No. Canceling your COBRA because it is too expensive or you have changed your mind is not considered “involuntary” so it is not a QLE.  So it is wise to explore your options, including Covered CA plans, before you elect to take COBRA.

Please note, if you applied for a Covered CA plan within your 60 day window of time from your loss of coverage date, and you find out that your insurance won’t start right away, you can opt to take your COBRA coverage for a month or two to fill in the gap. Just be sure to cancel your COBRA when your Covered CA plan is supposed to start. 

Will I be able to afford health insurance with my job loss?

Many people are surprised to find out that they can receive APTC through Covered CA that helps their health insurance premiums to be very affordable. Some monthly premiums can be as low as $1. It’s easy to find out if you qualify for APTC by getting a free quote. Remember to include all of your household income for the quote (this would be income from each person who appears on your tax return for the current benefit year, income from your prior job, and any unemployment benefits that you might be receiving).

What if my loss does not count as a QLE?

  • If you don’t have a QLE you can enroll during the next Open Enrollment in the fall of each year
  • If your income is low, you may qualify for Medi-Cal which is open for enrollment year round

Need help?

The rules surrounding health insurance enrollment times can be confusing. To get a free quote with a subsidy or for questions about applying during Special Enrollment Period, call one of our Certified Covered California Agents at 877-752-4737.