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Losing your job can cause significant financial stress, especially if you’re losing your health insurance benefits at the same time. But you may be eligible for a special enrollment period on the Health Insurance Marketplace if you’ve lost benefits. This means you don’t have to wait until the annual open enrollment period in November to apply for coverage. Plus, it’s likely you’ll qualify for the premium tax credit.
To find the best health insurance during unemployment, we reviewed the largest health insurance companies in the country and compared them across a range of metrics. We prioritized companies that offer plans with low premiums and low copays, as well as tax incentives for additional savings. We also looked for companies that offer extra benefits that unemployed individuals might need.
- Our Top Picks
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Best Overall : Oscar
Most affordable plan premiums and lowest copays
Good selection of health management programs
$0 virtual urgent and primary care with some plans
Dental coverage for children
Limited state availability
No adult dental coverage on plans
After reviewing some of the top health insurance companies, we determined that Oscar is the best health insurance company for unemployment overall. Plans are available in 20 states.
Based on our sample rate quotes across two ZIP codes, Oscar has the most affordable premiums and the lowest physician copays out of the ten insurance companies we reviewed. Oscar was also named “best overall” in our roundup of the best affordable health insurance companies, and “best value plans” out of the best health insurance companies.
Oscar offers the biggest selection of health management programs, with coverage for conditions like depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. Some plans include $0 virtual urgent care and $0 virtual primary care, where you can connect with a doctor 24/7 from home.
Through Oscar’s highly-rated mobile app, you can manage appointments, request prescription refills, and earn up to $100 per year for tracking your steps in the app if you live in Florida or New York, $25 if you live in California, and $75 if you live in other states.
Oscar’s health plans are available with children’s dental coverage, but the company doesn’t sell health plans that include adult dental benefits.
Great for Low Copays : Cigna
Low physician copays
Large provider network
Not available nationwide
No dental coverage with plans
Few health management programs
Cigna has some of the lowest physician copays out of the companies we reviewed, which can make it an affordable option. For example, Cigna offers seven of the eight cheapest bronze plans in El Paso County, Texas, some with $0 physician copays. It’s only low-premium competitor in that area has a $50 physician copay.
Cigna also stands out for its extensive provider network. The company works with more than 1.5 million healthcare providers and hospitals around the world, including over 65,000 contracted pharmacies and more than 175,000 mental and behavioral health professionals.
But one downside of Cigna is the lack of health management programs. It’s one of the few companies we reviewed that doesn’t offer plans with a depression management program. Cigna also doesn’t offer any health plans that include dental coverage.
Best for Premium Tax Credit : Aetna
All plans are eligible to be covered in full by the premium tax credit
Members get access to care at CVS MinuteClinic
Virtual urgent care, primary care, and mental health care are available
ACA plans aren’t available nationwide
High copays on some bronze plans
If you’re unemployed and qualify for the premium tax credit based on your income, Aetna is a great health insurance provider to consider. All of Aetna’s plans that are sold on the federal Marketplace are eligible to be covered in full by tax credits.
Aetna won the superlative of “best for premium tax credits” in a number of roundups, including the best affordable health insurance companies, the best health insurance companies for young adults, and the best health insurance companies for self-employment.
Aetna members can get access to care at one of CVS’ 1,100 MinuteClinic locations around the country. Most MinuteClinic services are low-cost or free, depending on the plan. Aetna plan members can also use Teladoc for virtual urgent care, primary care, and mental health care services. While Aetna can be a good option if you qualify for the premium tax credit, it’s not always the cheapest provider if you don’t.
Low-overall-cost Health Plans : Molina
Low deductibles on bronze plans
Virtual urgent care through Teladoc
Few health management programs
No plans with dental coverage
Plans available in 14 states
Lowest average NCQA rating
If you’re looking for low-cost health insurance coverage, a bronze plan from Molina might fit the bill. The company’s plans are available in 14 states. They are not the cheapest, but it has plans with relatively low deductibles, which could mean lower out-of-pocket costs for you if you tend to use your health insurance coverage. Plus, Molina health plan members can access virtual urgent care through Teladoc at no cost. There’s also a free mobile app where members can view ID cards, find an in-network doctor, and connect to the nurse advice line.
But Molina only offers a few health management programs and it doesn’t sell policies that include dental benefits. Additionally, the company has an average NCQA plan rating of 2 out of 5 in some states, which is the lowest score out of the insurers we reviewed.
If you’re looking for health insurance while you’re unemployed, Oscar is our top recommendation. Oscar offers the lowest plan premiums, in general, and lowest copays, plus it offers a large selection of health management programs and free telehealth visits on many plans. But Cigna is a close contender on price, and Aetna is a good option if you qualify for the premium tax credit. Consider Molina if you need a low-deductible bronze plan.
How Do You Get Health Insurance If You Are Unemployed?
There are several ways to get health insurance if you’re unemployed. Losing job-based coverage is a qualifying life event, which means you can purchase a Marketplace plan through a special enrollment period. You can enroll in a new health plan within 60 days of losing your job. Another option is to enroll in Medicaid. If you meet your state’s income requirements, you can enroll in Medicaid at any time during the year.
What Is the Health Insurance Marketplace?
The Health Insurance Marketplace is a place where eligible individuals and families can shop for and purchase health insurance. The Marketplace makes it easy to compare plans based on premium, out-of-pocket costs, and plan categories. All health plans sold on the Marketplace must cover 10 essential health benefits, which include services like hospitalization, emergency services, pregnancy, and mental health and substance use treatment.
How Much Is Health Insurance?
Health insurance premiums are based on personal factors, such as location, age, tobacco use, plan category (metal tier), and the number of dependents on your plan. If you qualify for the advanced premium tax credit, you can save money on your premium. Another factor that impacts the cost of health insurance is the company you choose.
What Is the Premium Tax Credit?
The premium tax credit is a federal subsidy that lowers your health insurance premium if you purchase a health insurance plan through the Marketplace and meet the eligibility requirements. To use the tax credit, your household income must fall within a certain range, you cannot be claimed as a dependent by someone else, and you can’t use the tax status “Married Filing Separately.”
To find the best health insurance companies for unemployment, we started by evaluating the largest health insurance providers nationwide. Then, we shopped for plans from each company to better understand plan options, premiums, and out-of-pocket costs, like deductibles and copays.
We prioritized companies that offered low premiums and copays based on sample quotes for two ZIP codes: Miami-Dade County, Florida, and El Paso County, Texas. In addition, we gave more weight to insurers that offer extra benefits, like low-cost or free primary care or urgent care visits.
When evaluating each company, we also paid attention to state availability, plan types, plan ratings, and health management program offerings.
Oscar Insurance. “About Us.”
Oscar Insurance. “Virtual Urgent Care.”
Oscar Insurance. “What Is Step-Tracking, and How Do I Set it Up?”
Cigna Life Insurance Company of Europe. “Global Health Solutions for Employers.”
The Cigna Group. “Express Scripts Further Advances Transparency and Affordability for Consumers and Clients.”
Cigna Global. “Cigna Global Health Options,” Page 4.
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Premium Tax Credit.”
CVSHealth. “Health Care From MinuteClinic.”
National Committee for Quality Assurance. “Health Plans: Molina.”
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “People with Coverage Through a Job: If You Lose Job-based Health Insurance.”
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Medicaid Eligibility.”
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Information on Essential Health Benefits (EHB) Benchmark Plans.”
Internal Revenue Service. “Eligibility for the Premium Tax Credit.”