Health Care for Unemployed, Self Employed or Early Retirees
If you are unemployed, self-employed or want to retire before age 65 when you can apply for Medicare, you need to work harder to find quality, affordable insurance.
Click on each title to explore options for finding health care coverage.
Employer-Based Health Insurance
- If you have a working spouse or partner, check for eligibility through their employer’s group health coverage.
- If you are under 26, check into joining a health care plan through your parents’ or guardians’ employer.
- If you lose your job, COBRA lets you keep your employer coverage for 18 months, but it will cost more. You have to pay the full premium, not just the portion you paid while employed.
- If you are retiring, check to see if you have employer-sponsored retiree health coverage through your current or a previous employer. Check into eligibility requirements before you retire.
- For early retirees, COBRA may be a good option if you retire within 18 months of turning 65.
- Though private insurance is often more pricey than group coverage, you can definitely check into this option, especially if you are in good health.
- Private insurance lets you customize coverage to your specific needs and shop for competitive rates.
ACA Health Exchange (Marketplace) and Federal Benefits
- If you lose your job or retire early, your household income changes. This can make you eligible for income-based subsidies of insurance premiums or federal benefits.
- If you are turning 26 but not fully employed, you may be eligible for income-based subsidies or federal benefits. Find out using Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator.
- Catastrophic plans are available for those under 30 or who meet hardship exemption criteria. Catastrophic plans feature low premiums but much higher deductibles. You must meet your deductibles (current deductible is $7,900), then the insurance pays for all your medical costs.
- Individuals or survivors of those who actively serve or have served in the military have additional benefits to consider including Tricare
The key to finding insurance on your own is shopping around, knowing your options and weighing the benefits/costs under each plan. One option is working part-time for a company offering benefits for part-time workers.
Case Study: Health Care for Early Retiree
Not everyone can work to full retirement age. As this case study shows, someone retiring before Medicare eligibility at age 65 has other options.
Josef is 59 and he was working full time until last week when his company shut down. His wife, Lydia, works full time and uses her employer’s health insurance. Josef and Lydia have saved for retirement, but their savings will not pay for everything Josef needs until he can qualify for Medicare. What options can Josef and Lydia explore to pay for his medical needs? Click on each option below to see how it may apply.
Josef may opt to purchase private health insurance, but costs are often very high. Because job loss is usually a qualifying event through an employer’s plan, Josef may be able to join Lydia’s health care plan. Josef may also be able to secure COBRA coverage through his current employer, although it only covers 18 months.
Josef could look for coverage through his state’s ACA health exchange. Given that Lydia still works, however, his premiums may be higher than if he joins Lydia’s plan, so he should compare costs.
Josef will not qualify for Medicare until he turns 65.
It never hurts to search through federal benefits, but Josef probably will not qualify.
Qualifying Events for Your Health Plan
Qualifying events often include losing a job or taking early retirement. These events may make it possible for you to enroll in a spouse’s plan immediately rather than waiting for the open-enrollment period.