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The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, won’t automatically cover you if you lose your job.

The law established the ACA marketplace, which makes it easier for people to compare and find an individual health plan. The law also allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility, demands health insurers offer minimum benefits, allows parents to keep their children on their health plan under they turn 26 and provides subsidies for people based on income. 

If you lose your job, you can check out your state’s ACA marketplace to see what plans are available in your area. Health insurers can’t deny coverage or charge you much higher premiums because of your health condition. Before the ACA, insurance companies could charge you huge premiums or reject a plan because of pre-existing conditions. 

To help people afford coverage, the federal government provides subsidies for those who meet certain income requirements, such as having an annual income at 400% of the federal poverty level or less (that’s about $100,000 for a family of four). The government helps by providing tax cuts or subsidies to insurance companies to keep down costs for premiums and out-of-pocket costs for lower-income people. 

The law also calls for expanding the eligibility requirements for Medicaid. Thirty-eight states expanded Medicaid, which gives that option to Americans with incomes 138% of the federal poverty level or less (about $35,000 for a family of four).

Another option is to continue your former employer’s coverage through a COBRA plan. COBRA lets families temporarily keep coverage through employer-sponsored health plans after loss of a job, death or divorce. So if you lost your job, you could continue coverage under your employer’s health plan by electing COBRA continuation coverage.

The downside of COBRA coverage is its cost. The employer no longer foots the health plan bill; you pay the entire tab, plus 2%. The average family plan’s premiums without an employer’s help is more than $22,000 in 2020. 

Find out more about your health insurance options if you lose your job.

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Les Masterson


Les, a former managing editor, insurance, at QuinStreet, has more than 20 years of experience in journalism. In his career, he has covered everything from health insurance to presidential politics.