Best Health Insurance Companies for the Unemployed

How to choose the right health insurance when you're out of work

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Losing your job can be devastating, no matter your age or circumstance. Not only are there financial consequences, but there’s also the possibility of being left without company health benefits. 

Try not to panic if you’re joining the 5.8% of unemployed U.S. citizens, as of June 2021. Thankfully there are health insurance options available to suit every budget. 

Marketplace health insurance protects you against unexpected medical expenses while you are left without employer-sponsored health insurance. It’s a wise investment considering that just 35% of adults do not have enough funds to cover an unexpected $400 expense. 

To help you understand your options, we explored factors like price, coverage, availability, and limitations of 18 health insurance options before deciding on our top five. Continue reading to find out who made the list of our best options for health insurance during unemployment.

Best Health Insurance Companies for the Unemployed of 2021

Best Health Insurance Companies for the Unemployed
Best Health Insurance Companies for the Unemployed

Best Overall : United Healthcare

United Healthcare

 United Healthcare

Why We Chose It: United Healthcare is our top choice for the unemployment health insurance category thanks to their expansive network, an impressive range of added benefits, and flexible TriTerm policy allowing up to three years of coverage.

What We Like
  • Excellent reputation

  • Online quotation and purchasing system

  • Large provider network

  • Smartphone app that integrates with medical records

  • Options without special enrollment periods

  • Added health and wellness benefits

What We Didn't Like
  • Not available in some locations

  • More expensive than some providers

Unemployment often represents uncertainty. For those who are unsure if and when employer-sponsored health insurance will begin, their TriTerm cover of up to three years is an ideal option. This makes United Healthcare an easy choice for our overall top pick for unemployed insurance.

United Healthcare is a giant among health insurance providers, with a network covering more than 1.3 million doctors and 6,500 hospitals in the United States. With an A rating for their financial stability from AM Best, United also boasts an unparalleled range of benefits and a massive range of plans. 

Available policies extend to individual health insurance, group options, dental, and vision. They also offer Medigap, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and prescription drug plans. 

Individual health insurance plans are available through the health insurance marketplace during open enrollment or during the 60-day Special Enrollment Period (SEP) following a job loss. Cover starts around 2 to 6 weeks later. These plans conform to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), meaning cover doesn’t max out, exclude pre-existing conditions, or limit renewability.

United Healthcare Exchange Plans offers three tiers of coverage, from Bronze plan to comprehensive Gold Plans. Prices range from around $500 per month for the cheapest option with an $8,150 deductible, through around $1,600 per month with $0 deductible. There may be discounts if you combine additional coverage for dental or vision care. 

The TriTerm policy, as short-term insurance, doesn’t conform to ACA. Premiums cost around $100 to $300 monthly, have a $2 million lifetime benefit, and are renewable for up to three years. Exclusions can include pre-existing conditions, elective procedures, and alternative treatments.

These prices are higher than most competitors, which was a drawback of the United Healthcare policies.

Best for Families : Molina



Why We Chose It: We chose Molina as our best for families pick because of their range of child and family-friendly options to help you save money, plus a cap on family deductibles.

What We Like
  • Prenatal care and pediatric care benefits

  • Wellness and preventative care benefits

  • Some plans work with the federal programs Medi-Cal, Medicaid, and Medicare

  • Cap on family deductibles

  • Eligible for tax credits

What We Didn't Like
  • Not available in all states

  • AM Best rating unavailable

  • Some user reviews report issues with claims

Becoming unemployed is incredibly stressful if you also have a family to consider, and health insurance costs can be considerable if you have several dependents. Our best for families choice is Molina, as they have economical and cost-saving options, with benefits geared toward pregnancies and children.

If your income is below 400% of the federal poverty level, you can use tax credits for Molina plans to reduce the monthly premiums significantly. Plus, no matter how large your family, the deductible is capped at twice the individual deductible. 

You can quote and purchase online or through Marketplace, and plans are ACA compliant. Molina only offers individual and family plans, which may include prescription drug coverage.

Molina has excellent family perks, such as wellness and preventative health services, plus child and adolescent shots, pediatric preventative health care, and pregnancy care.

A drawback with Molina is their policies are limited to 11 states. You may also need to look for a new doctor who partners with them because of their limited network.

Best for Budget : Sidecar Health



Why We Chose It: Sidecar Health earns our best for budget ranking because you can customize their flexible, low-cost policies, you’re not tied into a commitment, and you can save up to 40% over traditional health insurance.

What We Like
  • Economical premiums

  • Enroll at any time

  • Freedom to see any provider

  • Price comparison tool

  • Options to tailor cover precisely to your needs

What We Didn't Like
  • Only available in 16 states

  • Phone assistance is not 24/7

When thinking of health insurance providers, it isn't surprising if Sidecar Health doesn't come to mind. This newcomer to the market launched in 2018 with big plans to change the face of health insurance. The Sidecar Health model differs completely from standard health insurance and could save you 40% on healthcare costs, making Sidecar Health our top budget pick.

With Sidecar Health's online system, you select the level of coverage you want, then choose your options, such as prescription drugs. Policies are priced around $200 per month for coverage of $10,000 per year, and up to $400 monthly for annual coverage that maxes out at $2,000,000. Typically, there’s a $0 deductible, although you can opt to pay one to reduce the premium. Coverage starts within 14 days.

Sidecar Health values affordability, simplicity, and transparency. This is exemplified by their phone app that allows users to search for the lowest cost healthcare providers in their location. Shop around for the best price, and if you find a lower price than Sidecar Health’s fixed benefit amount, you can keep the difference, or you may need to pay extra if the provider's cost is higher. 

You have the freedom to see any doctor or provider, who you’ll pay with your Sidecar Health Visa payment card when you receive care. Because you’re effectively paying in cash, you may also find further discounts.

Sidecar Health isn’t traditional insurance and you can join them or leave at any time. When you’re unemployed and don’t know how long you’ll need cover, this is particularly useful. 

The main drawback with Sidecar Health is their restriction to certain states. The coverage is restricted to medically necessary items and services, so no cosmetic or elective procedures.

Best Short-Term Health Insurance : Pivot



Why We Chose It: We chose Pivot for our best short-term health insurance pick as they allow you to customize your quotation, offer different price points, and provide discounts on prescription drugs and vision care.

What We Like
  • No need to use a network of providers

  • Round the clock access to telemedicine

  • Discount programs

  • Optional prescription coverage

What We Didn't Like
  • Some plans have low maximums

  • Not available in every state

Losing your job is challenging, and most people don’t know how long their unemployment will last. With their flexible policy lengths, attractive pricing, and discounts, Pivot is our best short-term health insurance pick.

As relative newcomers to the insurance market, Pivot Health launched in 2016 and expanded its short-term insurance plan from 90 days to 364 days in 2018. Their short-term plans are underwritten by the Companion Life Insurance Company, which has an AM Best financial stability rating of A+ (Superior). Pivot is affiliated with Communicating for America, a not-for-profit promoting health and welfare for U.S. citizens. 

Pivot Health has a straightforward quotation system that allows you to tailor your plan; policies are available in 31 states.

Short-term insurance options include basic, Core, Quantum, or Epic policies. Pivot design plans for people who don’t like high deductibles, and theirs run from just $1,000 to $10,000. 

Premiums start at $99, with maximum out-of-pocket costs are between $1,000 and $10,000, and maximum annual benefit limits up to $1 million. No matter which plans you choose, there is a coinsurance of either 20% or 30%.

Because short-term plans need not comply with the ACA, there are some exclusions, including for pre-existing conditions, maternity care aside from complications, and mental health services.

After buying a policy and making your first payment, covered can begin within 24 hours.

Best For Singles : Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente

 Kaiser Permanente

Why We Chose It: We chose Kaiser Permanente as our best for singles pick because they offer top-rated health insurance policies, the option to add a Health Savings Plan (HSA), and the convenience of an integrated health system.

What We Like
  • Streamlined online quotation and application process

  • Superior ratings for customer satisfaction

  • All-in-one insurance and health care

  • Mobile app for the tech-savvy

  • 5/5 stars rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

What We Didn't Like
  • Limited to using Kaiser facilities

  • Only available in eight states and the District of Columbia

Health industry giant Kaiser Permanente provides a range of policies at price points to suit most and has options to add a Health Savings Account, which allows you to set money aside for health care. When finances are an issue during times of unemployment, every cent counts, which is why along with their superb reputation Kaiser is our top pick for singles.

Kaiser Permanente is a managed care organization. You cannot only purchase a health insurance policy from them but also use one of the 39 Kaiser Foundation Hospitals or 724 medical offices for health care. 

Policies include Medigap, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, individual and group health insurance, dental, and vision. 

J.D. Power and Associates consistently ranks Kaiser at the highest level for customer satisfaction. However, Kaiser doesn’t have Better Business Bureau accreditation. 

One drawback is that only residents of the following states can purchase a policy: California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Policies can be purchased online directly through Kaiser or through the government Marketplace. 

Kaiser Permanente’s ACA offerings include Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans with the option to add an HSA to the Bronze and Silver options. With an HSA, contributions are tax-free, and you can use them to pay for various qualifying expenses such as prescriptions, doctors and hospital visits, and diagnostic testing. It’s not a problem if you lose your job as the balance in the HSA can be transferred.

The Bronze plan has a $6,900 to $13,800 deductible and a maximum out-of-pocket up to $15,600. The Silver plan has a high premiums approaching $500 per month, with a deductive ranging from $2,500 to $8,000. Coinsurance is 20%.

A great benefit of the Kaiser plans is free preventative care, such as routine physicals and mammograms. As with all health insurance plans, there are exclusions, which includes cosmetic procedures, acupuncture, and dental care.

Final Verdict

Becoming unemployed is challenging, especially if you need to consider financing health insurance. Our round-up presents some cost-effective and flexible options, which are essential if you cannot plan for your future employment.

Overall, United Healthcare is our top choice for unemployment health insurance because of its expansive network, an impressive range of added benefits, and TriTerm short-term insurance option.

Families may struggle with health insurance if the primary earner loses their job and benefits. However, Molina offers family-friendly benefits with reasonable policy pricing, thereby taking our top pick for families spot.

If budget is a concern, consider Sidecar. With cost-effective and innovative policies, they rank as our top budget pick. For those looking for a short-term policy, take a look at Pivot; with their policies’ range of pricing and discounts on prescription drugs and vision care, they are a solid choice.

Finally, Kaiser Permanente was our choice for singles because of their unified health insurance and health care and HSA plan benefits, which can easily be transferred.

Compare Providers

Insurance provider Why we picked it Monthly premium (average)
United Healthcare Best Overall $500
Molina Best For Families $500
Sidecar Best Budget $200
Pivot Best For Short-Term Insurance $99
Kaiser Permanente Best For Singles $400


How Does Health Insurance for the Unemployed Differ?

Unlike with employer-sponsored health insurance, you’re responsible for covering the premium’s entire cost when you're unemployed. This applies whether you purchase your unemployment health insurance through COBRA, the government’s Marketplace, or a private provider. 

The additional financial burden of paying for this health insurance with a reduced income further emphasizes the importance of shopping around and comparing plans to find the most economical option.

How Can I Apply for Health Insurance if I’m Unemployed?

There are various ways to apply for health insurance if you become unemployed. If you would like to continue with your work-based policy under COBRA, you should talk to your employer. They should notify you within 14 days of a qualifying event if you’re eligible; you then have 60 days to apply.   

A cheaper option may be to find a policy on the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you lose your job, you should act quickly as the Special Enrollment Period triggered by your unemployment lasts only 60 days. 

Depending on where you live, you could also apply for short-term health coverage, which generally lasts up to a year, although United Healthcare has a three-year option.

How Much Does Health Insurance for the Unemployed Cost?

Health insurance for unemployment varies according to the policy you choose. If you use the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace, these policies comply with the Affordable Care Act and cost an average of $415 per month.

If you continue with your employer-sponsored health insurance, under the COBRA Act, you can choose to pay the full premium cost for a maximum of 18 months. On average, this costs $5,588 annually.

Other options include short-term policies that cost considerably less, in some cases under $100 per month. 

What Is Excluded From Coverage?

The rules on exclusions vary by policy. If you purchase a Health Insurance Marketplace policy, pre-existing conditions cannot be excluded from coverage due to the ruling of the Affordable Care Act. This ruling doesn’t apply to short-term policies.

Check the policy wording carefully to determine the exclusions. Common examples include:

  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Dental, hearing, and vision
  • Intentional self-harm
  • Lifestyle diseases caused by smoking, drinking, or drug abuse

How Quickly Does Coverage Begin?

If you purchase ACA insurance during Open Enrollment or Special Enrollment from day 1 through 15 of the month, cover typically starts on day 1 of the next month. If you enroll after day 16, it will be day 1 of the month after next. For example, if you enroll on January 17, coverage will begin on March 1.

With some short-term policies, you may find almost immediate coverage, which makes them ideal for bridging insurance gaps. 

How We Chose The Best Health Insurance Companies For the Unemployed

We evaluated 18 insurance companies offering unemployment health insurance before selecting the top picks for the five categories and assessed a range of elements to make our choices.

Monthly premium costs and overall pricing were the main factors for consideration because losing your job means losing financial stability. 

When looking at the policies, we reviewed the range of different options, how easy it was to find a quotation and make a purchase, as well as options and benefits.

It was also important to consider financial stability and customer satisfaction, which was the reason for using data from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, and including AM Best and BBB ratings in the decision wherever possible.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Federal Reserve System. Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020 - May 2021. Updated May 19, 2021.

  3. AM Best. AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of UnitedHealth Group and Most Subsidiaries; Upgrades Credit Ratings of Certain Subsidiaries. Updated December 18, 2020

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  5. J.D. Power. Health Plans Have a Customer Engagement Problem, J.D. Power Finds.” Updated May 14, 2020.

  6. Kaiser Family Foundation. Average Marketplace Premiums by Metal Tier, 2018-2021.

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