Unemployment is challenging for anybody.

You have to worry about paying the rent, making sure you can afford food and taking care of any outstanding taxes.

One of the last things on most people’s minds is healthcare.

If you are fairly young and healthy, you probably feel that you don’t need to worry about any unexpected healthcare expenditures. Unfortunately, health problems can occur when you least expect them. Patients with pre-existing illnesses are going to be especially concerned about covering their healthcare costs.

What can you do to get adequate healthcare during unemployment? Here are some things to think about…

Look into Medicaid

Medicaid is the state health insurance program that helps low income residents. Some states have different names for it. In California, it is called Medi-Cal. In Maine, the healthcare program for low income people is known as Mainecare.

The income threshold and other eligibility requirements for Medicaid programs are different in every state, although there are many commonalities since it is funded through federal dollars. However, most unemployed people could theoretically get access to these programs unless:

  • They operate rental properties that provide a lot of income. One of my friends lost his job while having two tenants in his home each that were each paying $600 a month in rent. This income alone was nearly too high for him to qualify for Medicaid.
  • You receive a very generous severance package. In some states, this may not be counted towards your income since it is a single lump sum. You’ll need to check the eligibility criteria.
  • You have substantial dividend and interest income.

Under the Medicaid expansion part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states can no longer deny you Medicaid coverage based on the value of the assets that you own.

So, does this mean that you can immediately start receiving Medicaid insurance the moment that you were unemployed? Unfortunately, the answer is often no. States may require you to submit your previous year’s tax returns as proof of your income level. This can create a one-year lag before you can start claiming any form of assistance, including Medicaid.

The standards may vary by state. You need to check with the state division of family assistance.

Coverage Through the Health Exchange

The Affordable Care Act provides subsidized health insurance to low income individuals and families. The subsidies available are tiered to your income. If your income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, you can always purchase a plan through the exchange. There is no income limit to purchase a plan on the health exchange, although you may not receive any subsidies.

Individuals making over $47,520 won’t receive subsidies. The income limits to receive subsidies are higher for larger family units.

Most unemployed applicants will have income low enough to qualify. Even if your income is too high, it is still advisable to purchase care through the exchange. Your income could drop lower than you expect throughout the year, which means you could actually receive subsidies when you file your taxes the following April.

Look for Affordable Clinics

Having access to health insurance isn’t the same as having access to healthcare.

You will still need to pay deductibles and some of your health expenditures may not be covered.

You will need to make sure that you have a relationship with healthcare providers that offer good coverage for a reasonable price, because you don’t want to be broke with high deductibles if you don’t have the money to pay for them.

You may also want to look into special programs that offer assistance for certain medications if your ACA policy doesn’t cover them.