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How long you have health insurance after leaving a job depends on your previous employer.

After you leave your job, employers decide how long you get to keep your group health insurance plan. There are no laws that require companies keep former employees covered for a specific period, it will be completely up to your employer.

While your health insurance coverage could end at any time, many employers will provide coverage up until the last day of the month. For example, if you left your job on December 15th, you may have coverage until December 31st. 

You should contact the company’s benefits administrator to determine your last date of coverage.

How long do you have health insurance after leaving a job?

The length of time your employer-sponsored health plan stays active will depend on the company’s policy. Usually, your health insurance will remain active through the end of the month that you work your last day. So if your employment ends on the 1st, you could have health insurance for a full month before it expires. If your last day is during the final week of the month, you may only have a few days of health coverage before it ends.

In some cases, however, your health insurance expires the day you leave your job. To find out exactly how long your coverage lasts, talk to your human resources department to find out what the company’s policy says.

What are your health insurance options after leaving a job?

Most people rely on their employer for health insurance, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be covered if your job ends. You have a few options to explore:

COBRA

After leaving a job, you may be eligible for COBRA health insurance coverage. Under COBRA continuation coverage, you’re entitled to continue your former employer’s group plan for up to 18 months at your own expense. Beneficiaries may be able to keep COBRA coverage even longer, depending on the circumstances.

Your previous employer’s benefits administrator will contact the health insurer when you leave your job. You should receive a packet explaining how to enroll in COBRA insurance coverage, but you don’t have to opt for it if you don’t need to. You have 60 days after your last day of employer-sponsored health coverage to decide whether to sign up for a COBRA health plan.

COBRA provides you with the same health coverage you had while you worked for your previous employer. The major difference is that you have to pay all the costs of the COBRA plan and your employer no longer chips in money to help pay for a plan — which can add up. The average employer-sponsored family plan costs an average of more than $22,000 annually.

Health insurance marketplace

If you find COBRA coverage is too costly, you can shop the health insurance marketplace. Losing your employer-sponsored health insurance coverage is a qualifying event that makes you eligible for a special enrollment period that generally lasts up to 60 days after the triggering event (like quitting your job). The Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace offers individual and family health plans that are similar to employer-sponsored health plans, but since your employer won’t be helping you pay premiums, ACA marketplace plans can be more expensive than a group health plan.

However, the ACA marketplace also provides subsidies to help offset some of those costs based on your household income. When applying for an ACA plan, the marketplace website will provide premium estimates for each plan that includes those subsidies.

Join a spouse’s plan

If you’re married or in a domestic partnership, you may be able to enroll in your partner’s health insurance plan. Losing health care coverage generally counts as a qualifying event that allows you to join a spouse’s plan without waiting until the annual enrollment period. Getting married also counts as a qualifying event; you can make changes to your health insurance within 30 days of your wedding.

For the exact rules around enrolling in your spouse’s health plan, contact their employer’s benefits administrator.

Short-term health insurance

To bridge the health insurance gap between jobs, you might want to get short-term health insurance. Also known as temporary health insurance or term health insurance, this type of coverage is meant to last for a brief period of time — usually, up to 12 months.

One of the benefits of going this route is the cost. Temporary insurance premiums can be much cheaper than a COBRA or marketplace plan. You can also buy it at any time without waiting for an official enrollment period. However, the trade-off is that coverage can be limited. For instance, some preventative care services or prescriptions may not be covered. Additionally, out-of-pocket costs may also be high. Short-term health insurance is a good substitute for your previous plan, but it’s really meant to protect you when you’re between insurance plans.

Keep in mind that coverage and cost will vary by state and the individual plan. Some states don’t allow short-term insurance at all. California, for instance, banned the sale or renewal of short-term health insurance in 2018. So be sure to research your state’s laws and options. 

Is there a grace period for health insurance after termination?

It’s up to your employer to decide how long your health insurance stays in effect after you leave your job. It could be a month or two, or there could be no grace period at all. However, losing employer-sponsored health coverage usually counts as a qualifying event that allows you to opt for a special enrollment period. Generally, you have 60 days from the date of the qualifying event to qualify for a special enrollment period.

How to prepare to leave a job

Leaving a job can have major implications for your finances and health. So before you quit, be sure to fully prepare so you aren’t stuck with an unnecessarily expensive health insurance plan — or no plan at all.

  • Talk to HR: Once you’ve made the decision to leave your job, you should get in touch with your HR department right away to find out what your health insurance options are. Verify how long the employer’s group coverage lasts once you leave the company, as well as if you are eligible for COBRA.
  • Time it right: If, like many employer health plans, your coverage remains intact through the rest of the month that you leave, it can be a good idea to schedule your last day early in the month. That way, you remain covered by the group plan for a few weeks while you get set up with a new one.
  • Enroll in a new plan ASAP: Don’t wait to enroll in a new plan. Taking too long could make you ineligible for certain options. Plus, you don’t want to have a lapse in coverage.

Losing employer-based coverage can be stressful, but there are options to make sure you’re covered. And remember, some health insurance is better than none — even if it comes at a higher cost. Unexpected medical bills can run into the tens of thousands.

Frequently asked questions

Does health insurance end the day you quit?

It’s up to your employer. Some companies end employer coverage the day that an employee leaves, while many will allow the coverage to remain intact through the end of the month (or longer). However, if you opt into COBRA coverage, you’ll be able to stay on the same health insurance plan for up to 18 months — you’ll just have to pay for it in full.

How long does your insurance last after you quit a job?

When you quit a job, the length of time your employer health coverage lasts is up to your employer, not the insurer. Many allow coverage to remain intact through the rest of the month, but it could be shorter or longer. Before leaving a job, be sure to discuss your health coverage options with HR and/or the plan administrator.

When does health insurance expire after leaving a job in California?

Your health insurance may expire the day you leave your job, or at the end of that month. For instance, if you quit on January 10th, you may have coverage through January 31st. You’ll need to find out what your employer’s policy is. In California, there is a penalty for allowing your health insurance to lapse, so it’s important to understand your options and have a plan for enrolling in coverage ASAP.

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Casey Bond
Contributing Researcher

 
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Casey Bond is a seasoned writer and editor who has covered personal finance for more than a decade. Previously, she reported on money, home and living for HuffPost. She has held editorial management roles at Student Loan Hero and GOBankingRates. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Money.com, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, and more. In 2019, she won a NEFE Excellence in Personal Finance Reporting Award. She is also a Certified Personal Finance Counselor.

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