How to Get Health Insurance Without a Job

by Contributing Writer ; Updated October 25, 2017

Items you will need

  • Directory of short-term health insurance policies
  • Insurance application forms

Many people make the dangerous assumption that they can't purchase health insurance without risking their savings. In fact, you can obtain health insurance if you are unemployed. Your chances of getting affordable health insurance depend on your age, your medical issues and how long ago you were employed. When it comes to short-term health insurance, there is no one-size-fits-all option. Read on to find a list of various health insurance options, one of which is bound to fit your profile.

Step 1

Consider Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) insurance if you were recently laid off by your job. This Congressional act requires employers to keep former employees on the company health insurance plan for 18 months after the employee was laid off. The drawback is that employees must pay the entire insurance premiums rather than matching a portion the cost. In general, laid-off employees pay about $200 for individual rates and $1,000 for family rates.

Step 2

Learn whether you qualify for COBRA insurance with your former employer. You qualify for COBRA coverage if your employer has 20 or more employees enrolled in a group plan who have worked more than six months of the year. You also must have experienced a "qualifying event" to qualify for COBRA, including leaving the company and becoming unemployed.

Step 3

Contact your former employer within 30 days of your leaving the company, and ask your employer what you need to do to enroll in COBRA. Your employer will send you an application and other forms that allow you to choose the coverage you want and your payment plan. Submit these forms to your employer as soon as you can to start receiving coverage.

Step 4

Check if your spouse's employer offers health insurance for recently laid-off employee spouses (if you choose not to enroll in COBRA). If they do, fill out and submit an application for employee dependent coverage. Expect to pay the full cost of the coverage plan.

Step 5

Seek out short-term coverage, if either COBRA or spouse-dependent coverage does not work out for you. Search for any insurance agencies (including those that sell insurance online) that carry a short-term or "gap" health-insurance policy you can use while between jobs (see Resources). Once you find such an agency, fill out an application for short-term insurance and choose a payment plan (again, you can often submit your application online).

Step 6

Get an individual health insurance policy if the above options do not work out for you. Go to your local agency and fill out an individual-policy application. Consider an individual policy as a last resort because it is often the most expensive. Yet, it is still an improvement over forgoing insurance altogether.


  • If you are in excellent health, you may also want to consider catastrophic health insurance. This type of insurance pays only for major emergency expenses, costing $500 to $15,000 per year, depending on your policy. Remember that catastrophic health insurance will not compensate you for annual check-ups.


  • Never forgo purchasing health insurance. Even if you experience a minor accident, such as an arm fracture, you may end up paying thousands of dollars more than you would through insurance. Instead, purchase some form of health insurance and work as hard as you can to find new employment.

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