Affordable Care Act: when the individual mandate does not apply

I lost my job in January, got evicted from my apartment in February, and have been couch surfing ever since. With all of that going on, I have paid no attention to my health insurance. I couldn’t have afforded anything anyway. I’m hoping to get a job with benefits soon, but who knows how long that might take. What should I do about my health insurance?

In Limbo

Dear In Limbo,

I certainly hope your year takes a turn for the better soon.

There is a long list of things that make a person exempt from the health reform “individual mandate” – the requirement that you have health insurance. You’ve got at least two in your story: you were evicted (this gives you 6 months), and you were homeless. There’s another that might apply also: at your (zero) income, the lowest cost plan would have cost you more than 8% of your income. Here’s the’s list of exemptions.

As soon as one of these “outs” is gone – such as, you get a job and an apartment – you are back on the hook to have insurance. Even before you land on your feet, you could check whether your state is offering Medicaid to all low-income people. Find your state on this list. If your state has “expanded” Medicaid, then go to and start your application. Or, you can go to your local health and human services office for help.

Good luck with everything.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.