If you are unemployed, you will be required to have essential health coverage under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014 in order to avoid paying a fee. Depending on your age and your household income, you may have various options.
If you are unemployed but your spouse has insurance coverage through his or her employer, you may already be covered, or you may be able to obtain coverage through your spouse’s plan. If you are a dependent, you may be included in your parent’s health coverage plan. According to the Affordable Care Act, children can be included in their parents’ health coverage plan until age 26. This could be a parent’s health care plan through an employer, if the plan accepts dependents. Or it could be health coverage a parent obtains through a health exchange.
According to HealthCare.gov a child up to age 26 can be included in a parent’s health insurance plan even if the child is married, not living with the parents and not financially dependent on the parents.
If you have COBRA insurance coverage after leaving an employer, you can keep the COBRA coverage or you could drop COBRA and obtain health insurance through an exchange. If you obtain health coverage through an exchange, you may qualify for a premium tax credit that you can receive in advance to reduce the premiums you have to pay. When you enroll in an exchange the amount of the credit is determined based on your family size and your estimated total annual household income. If you continue with COBRA coverage, you are not eligible for this subsidy.
The enrollment period for the health exchanges starts on October 1, 2013 and ends on March 31, 2014. But according to HealthCare.gov if you keep your COBRA coverage you could still enroll in an exchange once your COBRA coverage expires. In this case there would be a special enrollment period.
When you enroll in a health exchange, in addition to determining whether you qualify for the premium tax credit, you will also see whether you qualify for Medicaid. You would generally qualify if your household income is not more than 133% of the federal poverty line for your family size and your state has opted for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
You can also see whether you qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This program provides coverage for families with income over the limit for Medicaid, but who cannot afford private insurance. According to HealthCare.gov this insurance also covers pregnant women in some states.
If you are under 30 or have a low income, another option could be catastrophic health insurance. With this type of coverage you pay a lower premium but you would have to pay all your medical costs up to a certain amount, which can be several thousand dollars. Costs for medical care over that amount would be paid by the insurance. This catastrophic insurance is generally for people in good health who want protection in case of major medical expenses.
If you are unemployed and do not obtain health coverage in 2014, you will have to pay a fee. In 2014 the fee is 1% of your annual income or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher. There is also a fee of $47.50 per uninsured child. According to HealthCare.gov the most a family would have to pay in 2014 is $285.
The fee increases each year and in 2016 the fee is 2.5% of your annual income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. Paying the fee does not entitle you to any health insurance.
Can children stay on a parent’s plan until age 26? HealthCare.gov
Can I buy a “catastrophic” plan? HealthCare.gov
Health Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act, The Journal of the American Medical Association
What are my health coverage options if I’m unemployed? HealthCare.gov
What if I currently have COBRA coverage? HealthCare.gov
What if someone doesn’t have health coverage in 2014? HealthCare.gov