What Can I Do if My Employer Doesn’t Provide Health Insurance?

Health insurance is a bit of a sensitive subject in the United States. Whoever you ask about health insurance policymaking is likely to have some pretty explicit opinions about topics like Medicare/Medicaid as opposed to private health coverage and employment-based health insurance. There are those who believe that it’s not the United States federal government’s place to be providing health insurance to uninsured Americans. Others think that the federal government isn’t doing enough to make sure that everyone in the U.S. has access to health care.

Despite the complicated political landscape of health insurance, many Americans get their health insurance policy through their employer—about 49% of the population of the United States, according to recent findings. Those who work in a freelance capacity, are self-employed, or simply work for an employer who doesn’t offer health care benefits have some other options. If you’re trying to figure out what your options are, you may be confused due to the shifting nature of the coverage offered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). To learn more about how you can access health insurance coverage through the public health care marketplace, read on.

Coverage through the ACA differs by state

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All states in the U.S. offer some form of public plan through the ACA (also known as Obamacare), but the health coverage that’s offered varies to a large degree. Also, there are certain open enrollment periods, within which an enrollee can get themselves a public plan. If you miss the deadline for open enrollment, you have to wait for the next period unless you have a qualifying “life-changing event,” such as losing a job or moving to a new state. The federal government has aggregated the details of how enrollees can access public health coverage in their state. Make sure that you check about deductibles, monthly premiums, and exclusions (such as specific prescription drugs) before choosing a public plan. While Medicaid and Medicare programs cover a lot of things, they don’t cover everything.

There’s always the option of a private plan

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If you don’t find what you want on the state website or a Medicaid/Medicare plan won’t give you the family coverage you need, you can always get a private plan. Without the tax credits and subsidies that bolster a public plan, private insurance tends to be much more expensive. This is why you need to do even more due diligence before choosing a private health insurance plan. Read up on the details of every insurance plan and be clear about what coverage needs you have. If you get regular medical care, a more comprehensive health insurance plan will be necessary. There are helpful online tools that collect all the information about private plans in one place that make it easier to figure out who covers what and how much it will end up costing you.

Research your union

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Another option is to look for a union that may have a group plan you can join. Even if your specific employer doesn’t have a group coverage plan, your union might. There’s even a freelancer’s union these days, and the leaders there have done great work providing health insurance coverage to workers in the gig economy. In an age in which health benefits are not always offered by an employer, it makes sense to look for insurance options wherever they may be. Reach out to your local union representative and see if they have group coverage options.

If your employer doesn’t offer a group plan, don’t despair! Thanks to Obamacare and union representation, you can still get the long-term care you may need. Whatever route you end up on, though, make sure to read the fine print very closely before signing on that dotted line.

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