Health Care Options for The Unemployed

It's Friday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. Your boss calls you into his office and closes the door. He tells you that the company has to make cuts due to the recession and your job has been eliminated effective immediately. You're given a month's severance pay and a box to pack up your office.

As you drive home, first you begin to question how you will find another job to stay current on your bills. Then, you wonder how your daughter will get her much-needed braces, or how your wife will keep receiving her monthly heart medication. This scenario is what thousands of Americans face each week as companies continue to find ways to decrease deficits and stay in business.

Many recently out of work Americans who have always had their health insurance supplied by employers now have to deal with the daunting task of finding adequate and affordable health coverage. There are a number of options for families who need health insurance.

COBRA Health Insurance Continuation Premium Subsidy

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, an employer-provided subsidy was established for workers who lost their jobs involuntarily. With the plan, former workers may qualify for a 65 percent subsidy for themselves and their families for up to 15 months and pay 35 percent of the premium to their former employers. To qualify, you must have lost your job between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2010. Individuals with incomes that exceed $125,000 or joint filers with incomes more than $250,000 do not qualify.

The Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC)

The HCTC pays for 80 percent of an individual's or family's health insurance premiums. According to the IRS.gov, in order to qualify for the credit, you must be either a:

  • Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation payee (PBGC payee) who is 55 years old or older or
  • Trade Adjustment Assistance recipient (TAA recipient)-- including Alternative TAA (ATAA) and Reemployment TAA (RTAA)--who receives a Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA) or unemployment insurance

Qualified recipients can receive HCTC either on a monthly or yearly basis. If you believe your family meets the criteria for receiving HCTC, you can call 866-628-HCTC to receive a program kit.

Discount medical plans

If you find yourself still searching for full-time employment a few months before your COBRA subsidy expires, you should consider researching discount medical plans in your area. It's best to start early so you don't rush into a bad option. You want a health care plan that is affordable and makes the most sense for your family situation. Your state insurance department can help you find health care options locally.

Individual insurance

Search online for individual health care options. Many of these options will have high deductibles but lower premiums. Usually this insurance covers major medical incidents and might be best suited for young, single individuals. Aetna, CIGNA, BlueCross, and HUMANA are some of the companies offering individual plans.

Low cost check-ups

If you can't afford health insurance, there are federally-funded health centers around the nation offering uninsured individuals and their families annual check-ups, medical treatment, prescription drugs, dental care, immunizations and mental health care at a discounted price. To qualify, you must have proof of unemployment. Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to find a center in your area.

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