How to maintain health insurance if you've lost your jobs

If you find yourself unemployed, one of the most important things you’ll need to do is to maintain your health insurance, especially if your job provided health insurance for your family. While health insurance premiums are expensive and it can be tempting to cut health expenses by not paying the premiums, being uninsured can create a devastating financial situation.

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (also known as COBRA), employees who lose their health insurance benefits have the right to choose to continue to maintain their group health insurance after job loss. Qualified employees can maintain insurance for their entire family, but are required to pay the entire premium. 

Employees are eligible for COBRA if their company had health insurance for at least 20 employees. You will need to tell your plan administrator (usually found in your HR department) of your intention to maintain coverage, and you usually have 60 days to do so. 

Under COBRA, you are able to maintain coverage for up to 18 months after your separation from your company, although there are options for increasing that time frame. 

If you are used to having a large percentage of your health insurance premiums paid by your employer, being forced to pay the entire premium will be difficult. However, health insurance is essential for your financial wellbeing. While unemployment is definitely a setback, facing major medical bills while unemployed can be devastating. In addition, the premiums paid under COBRA are still typically lower than individual coverage.

The government also offers programs, such as Medicaid, for people with low incomes. Also, check with your local state government about health insurance programs.