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  • Eligibility for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act depends on household income
  • Unemployment compensation counts as income for Obamacare eligibility
  • Persons with too little income for Obamacare may qualify for coverage through Medicaid
  • Children and minors can get coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Applicants that cannot find affordable health insurance may qualify for an exemption from the Individual Mandate and penalty
  • Loss of insurance by loss of employment can create a special enrollment period for obtaining coverage after the open enrollment


Unemployed people can get health insurance coverage through Obamacare. When determining income for the Affordable Care Act, one must consider incomes for the entire family unit.

Income also includes various kinds of money payments including unemployment insurance payments, alimony, support payments, interest income, dividends, and capital gains from investments or real estate.

Even if you’re unemployed, it’s not a bad idea to compare private health insurance plans and get an idea of what your options are as your situation improves. Enter your zip on our site to get free, personalized quotes!

Low-Income Programs can Help

Unemployed persons can qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, and cost assistance. Unemployed persons may not meet the minimum income requirements for Obamacare subsidies. In states that adopted Medicaid expansion, the threshold for coverage is higher than those that did not.

More citizens are eligible in Medicaid expansion states because the maximum income limits are higher. Some states offer cost assistance on private insurance plans purchased through a state health insurance exchange.

Affordability Exemption for Employer and Individual Coverage

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The rule is that employer plans must cost 9.6 percent of the employee’s household income or less. Individual coverage that costs more than 8 percent of household income is not affordable. Applicants who cannot find coverage that is affordable under the ACA standards are exempt from the mandate and penalty.

An affordable employer-sponsored plan must not exceed 9.5 percent of household income, after the employer’s contribution. If the lowest-cost coverage costs more than eight percent of household income for self-only coverage, then such persons exempt from the health insurance mandate.

Unemployed Applicants Should Use State or Federal Marketplace

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An unemployed person can apply for health insurance on the federal or state exchanges. They may find affordable low-premium options based on family income. Should they not find an affordable option, they may qualify for an exemption, Medicaid, or the CHIP.

Many states offer assistance to low-income families to help them qualify for affordable health insurance including payment assistance. If income is below the minimum needed for Obamacare, then applicants can seek coverage under the applicable state Medicaid program or CHIP for minors.

Selecting the best Fit for Unemployed Applicants

Costs and budgeting may be a high priority for unemployed persons. It is important to update application figures to reflect unemployment and future earnings. Comparison shopping is an ideal method for assessing the features of plans that matter most. These might be facilities, in-network services, or locations.

For those seeking to lower costs, the degree of out-of-pocket expenses may be the most important factor. Comparison shopping is a tool for the consumer to get the best plan for their individual or family situation.

Children and Adult Dental Care for Unemployed


Dental care is an urgent consideration for many unemployed persons. CHIP covers most child and minor situations with preventive and comprehensive care.

Medicaid does not offer adult care in every sate, and in some, it is limited to emergency care. Those with criminal records that experience difficulty in getting and keeping jobs because of employer reaction to personal history may have a greater barrier.

Community-Based Resources for the Unemployed

For applicants that do not qualify for Medicaid or Obamacare, there may be other resources for getting some medical care at low or no costs. These resources include public community health centers. These centers offer services based on income, and they include the below-described services categories.

  • Prenatal care
  • General Primary medical care
  • Referrals for mental health, drug, and substance abuse treatment
  • Referrals for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases

Exemptions for the Unemployed

There is no unemployed person exemption from the individual mandate based only on being unemployed. However, when combined with other circumstances, many unemployed persons can qualify for a type of hardship exemption.

Finding Economic Hardship Exemptions


Persons that fail to keep coverage throughout the year can get an economic exemption for 1-2 months. These exemptions were intended to bridge a short period of economic hardship with triggering the uninsured tax penalty for the full year.

When the economic hardship persists beyond a short period, applicants can file for an exemption from the individual mandate and penalty.

These exemptions include bankruptcy, foreclosure, unpaid medical expenses, ad many other indicators of financial hardship.

Using the Affordable Health Insurance Exemption

The Affordable Care Act sets a limit on the costs of health insurance. If an employer plan costs more the 9.66 percent of the employee’s household income, then it is not affordable; the employee can reject an unaffordable plan and buy insurance on the marketplace.

Comparison shopping is an excellent technique for finding the best fit among affordable policies. This type of state resource includes plans eligible for payment assistance in addition to premiums tax credits.

Special Enrollment Periods for Unemployed Persons

Losing coverage because of losing a job is a life event under the Affordable Care Act that creates a special enrollment period. Those who lose employment-based coverage can get new coverage with a special enrollment period of sixty days. This life event exception applies to those that lose coverage as a dependent too.

They can get a special enrollment period to buy new insurance coverage. The items below are among the life events that can help the unemployed get a special enrollment period.

  • Losing employer-sponsored health insurance as an employee
  • Losing employer-sponsored health insurance as a dependent
  • Losing employer-sponsored coverage on the 26th birthday
  • Losing employer-sponsored coverage by divorce

Start comparing affordable health insurance on our site with just your zip today!

[su_spoiler title=”References:” icon=”caret-square” style=”fancy” open=”yes”]

  1. http://obamacarefacts.com/questions/unemployed-obamacare-what-are-my-options/
  2. http://obamacarefacts.com/questions/medicaid-eligibility-thresholds-by-state/
  3. http://obamacarefacts.com/affordable-employer-sponsored-coverage/
  4. http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-chip-childrens-health-insurance-program/
  5. http://obamacarefacts.com/insurance-exchange/how-to-buy-health-insurance/
  6. https://www.medicaid.gov/Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-Topics/Benefits/Dental-Care.html
  7. https://www.healthcare.gov/unemployed/get-started-in-the-marketplace/
  8. https://www.healthcare.gov/health-coverage-exemptions/hardship-exemptions/
  9. https://www.healthcare.gov/health-coverage-exemptions/forms-how-to-apply/
  10. https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/affordable-coverage/
  11. https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage-outside-open-enrollment/special-enrollment-period/