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Can I apply for health insurance if I'm unemployed, or lose Cobra coverage, under Obamacare?

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Published on May 15, 2014

If you've lost your job, changes in your job, or your 18-months of COBRA coverage have run out, you are able to apply for new coverage in the individual insurance market under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The next annual open enrollment period -- when anyone can add or change their health coverage - is currently scheduled to begin on November 15 of this year.

Outside of open enrollment, the Affordable Care Act deems these types of changes in your access to health coverage to be qualifying events, which trigger a Special Enrollment Period.

A Special Enrollment Period gives you 60 days from the date of your qualifying event to apply for a new health plan.

When you apply for your new coverage, it's a good idea to have some proof of your loss or change in health coverage, such as a letter of termination from your employer or a copy of your coverage termination letter from your prior health plan -- just in case your new insurance company requires them for verification.

As long as you apply for new coverage within 60-days, your application for new health coverage cannot be declined.

Be aware that all new major medical heath plans provide certain popular benefits with no out of pocket costs like:
- Dietary counseling and screenings for weight management
- Tobacco and alcohol screenings, counseling and help quitting
- And recommended mental health and illness prevention tests and screenings -- to name a few

If you miss your 60-day Special Enrollment Period, you may not be able to enroll in a major medical health plan until the next open enrollment period.

And, it's likely your coverage could not begin before January 1 of next year.

If you miss the 60-day deadline, we encourage you to look at short-term health coverage as an alternative, to gain some measure of protection until you're eligible to apply for major medical coverage again during the Open Enrollment Period. Short-term coverage does not meet the requirements of Obamacare, so you may still be subject to a tax penalty.
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