What are your options if you lose your job and healthcare benefits?

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the “stay at home” order by many states, companies are losing business and struggling to pay bills and their employees.  Due to these circumstances, businesses are having to make the difficult decision to either furlough or layoff a significant amount of their employees.     The number of unemployment claims filed as of April 4th was 6.6 million, a new record from the 3.3 million record claims in the previous week, and is expected to continue to grow significantly.  Along with loss of employment, many individuals have also lost their access to health insurance.

If you find yourself among this group of unemployed, now is the time to act so you don’t find yourself in a situation where you need medical attention and don’t have health coverage, especially during a time when we are facing a worldwide epidemic.  Many are wondering what options they have if they lose their health insurance.  Here is a short summary of some healthcare options for unemployed workers:

  • MARKETPLACE – You may qualify to enroll in Marketplace insurance, which was established as part of the Affordable Care Act. Typically, you would enroll in a health plan on the Marketplace (https://www.healthcare.gov/) during the Open Enrollment Period, November 1st 2020 until December 15th 2020. However, a loss of a job is considered a qualifying “life event”, which would make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).  You only have 60 days from the time of the qualifying event to apply for the special enrollment, so you must act quickly.  If you miss the deadline, you may need to wait until the open enrollment period. 
  • COBRA – Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you are entitled to keep the health insurance from your former employer for up to 18 months.  This insurance can be very expensive since you will be responsible for the total monthly premium.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey data, the monthly premium for single coverage in 2019 was $7,188 and $20,576 for family coverage.  This could be difficult to afford after losing your job.
  • MEDICAID – Medicaid is an insurance program run by the government and eligibility varies from state to state.  Medicaid offers free or low-cost insurance coverage based on income and family size.  Many states have expanded their Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act.  To determine if you are eligible you can complete an application on your state’s health insurance marketplace.  

Another possibility for some may be to enroll in a spouse’s or family member’s employer-sponsored plan.  According to the ACA regulations, children under the age of 26 can be covered under a parent’s plan.   You have 30 days from the time your employer stops paying for insurance to enroll in family member’s plan.  Since enrollment periods for health plans are time sensitive, you need to act quickly to avoid a lapse in coverage.  

It is important to take the time to review these options now to determine the best fit for your needs. 

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