How to find health care when you’re out of work | Employment Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

How to find health care when you’re out of work

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 16 million people across the country are currently unemployed. For many, the loss of a paycheck also means the loss of employer-provided health-care benefits. If you’re confused about how to apply for health care while out of work, here are some tips to help you get started.

COBRA or Marketplace?

Former employees can temporarily continue their current health plan under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) or search for a new one through the insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. Many times after being fired or laid off, an employee will automatically receive COBRA documents in the mail.

To find out which one would be a better or more affordable option, comprehensive information on COBRA is available at dol.gov, while healthcare.gov covers both COBRA and the insurance marketplace. Healthcare.gov also allows you to see if you are eligible for Medicaid or if you have young dependents able to receive coverage under CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

What’s the Deadline?

Usually, people are only able to apply for ACA insurance during certain enrollment periods. But unemployed enrollees will most likely qualify for a special 60-day enrollment period. The same goes for COBRA, which gives you a 60-day election period — starting on the day you receive a COBRA election notice or on the date you lose coverage — to choose whether or not you want to continue your current plan.


Professional Help

If the process feels overwhelming, there are people available to help. Visit localhelp.healthcare.gov to find assistance in your area (be sure to read the difference between health care agents/brokers and assisters before contacting anyone.)

The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers also offers services for state residents navigating the marketplace. Visit pachc.org/Outreach-Enrollment or call 1-866-944-CARE (2273).

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