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How to Get Short-Term Health Coverage

Three options for health insurance in between jobs.

I’m switching jobs and won’t have health insurance for two months. How can I get coverage? --S.M., New York City

You can continue your coverage through the federal law known as COBRA for up to 18 months, but you’ll have to pay the full premiums, including the employer’s share (often 70% of the cost), plus up to 2% extra. You have 60 days to sign up for COBRA, so you could wait to see if you need it and get the coverage retroactively if you do; in that case, you’ll have to pay all of the premiums due since you left your job.

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You also have up to 60 days after leaving your job to buy coverage on your state insurance exchange (find links at Healthcare.gov). That coverage is not retroactive. Estimate your annual income (including the two months without a job); if it’s less than $47,520 for an individual or $64,080 for a couple, you’ll get a subsidy to help with premiums.

If you don’t qualify for a subsidy, your cheapest option may be a short-term policy, says Anthony Kavouras, of eHealth (where premiums averaged less than $120 per month in 2016). But these policies don’t typically cover preexisting conditions, preventive care or maternity care, and most don’t cover prescription drugs, he says.

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