In The News > How to Get Health Insurance If You've Lost Your Job During COVID-19

How to Get Health Insurance If You've Lost Your Job During COVID-19

More than 6.65 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the last week alone – a bleak result of the Coronavirus pandemic. But those impacted aren’t just losing their jobs: They’re often losing their health insurance benefits too.

And now is the time, especially, when health insurance may be extra crucial to you as you work to maintain good health or need coverage if you do get sick. Before weighing your options, take these steps:

  • Know your budget and what you can afford each month.
  • Make a list of your current health conditions and medications.
  • List any doctors any healthcare providers you want to keep.
  • Determine if you need dental or vision coverage.

If you’ve lost your job and job-based insurance coverage, here are six options for you:

1. Join your spouse’s plan

You may be able to obtain coverage through your spouse’s job-based health insurance plan, as long as your spouse or partner is already covered, which can be a cost-effective option.

Ask your spouse to talk to his or her HR or benefits team to see if this is an option and what the associated healthcare costs may be for you.

2. COBRA

You’ll likely receive a COBRA enrollment notice that includes information to continue your health insurance through your employer.

Pros:

  • You can keep your current health plan and continue to use your doctors and pharmacists under a policy you’re already familiar with.
  • Your copays and deductibles will remain the same.
  • Your spouses and children are eligible.

Cons:

  • You will likely face a higher premium because your employer will not subsidize the cost, and you’ll be charged a 2% administrative fee for continuing the plan.
  • You can stay on COBRA for a limited time – typically up to 18 months.
  • Some employers don’t offer this option, so be proactive and ask about it if you’re interested.

3. ACA (Obamacare) Plans

Though the 2020 open enrollment period has ended, losing your job may qualify you for a special enrolment period exception. You can see if you can get coverage for an ACA plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Pros:

  • Offers comprehensive major medical coverage for the 10 essential health benefits.
  • You can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions.
  • Tax credits are available if you meet the qualifications.

Cons:

  • You may not qualify to enroll in a plan at this time.*
  • Can be costly if you don’t qualify for a subsidy.
  • Plans can have narrow networks, so it’s wise to check if your doctors and providers are in-network.

*Note: U.S. officials are also considering a special enrollment period to help uninsured Americans during the COVID-19 crisis.

4. Short-Term Health Insurance

This type of temporary health insurance is designed to be a cost-effective and flexible insurance option if you’ve lost your job and have a gap in health insurance coverage.

Pros:

  • Flexible plan duration: Your coverage period can range from 30 to 364 days, with policy renewal of up to three years, depending on your state’s rules.
  • Cancel anytime: You can choose how long you want to be covered (anywhere from 30 to 364 days). Plus, you can cancel your plan anytime.
  • Enroll anytime: You can apply for and enroll in a temporary health insurance plan any time of year. And you can get coverage as soon as the day after you apply.

Cons:

  • There’s no coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • There are limits on prescription drug coverage: Most short-term health plans do not cover prescription drugs, but a few do offer add-on benefits and include prescription drug coverage after a deductible is met.
  • There are limits on the number of covered doctor visits.
  • Does not cover all of the 10 essential health benefits.
  • You can be denied coverage.

5. Medicaid

Medicaid is based on your income, family size and asset level. Though each state can set its own requirements, the limit is typically 133% of the Federal Poverty Level.

If you do qualify for Medicaid, you’ll receive low-cost health insurance through your state which may cover you for:

  • Inpatient care (hospital-type visits)
  • Outpatient care (doctor’s office visits)
  • Home health care
  • Nursing care
  • Dental, vision and hearing (in many cases)

Again, benefits vary by state. And Medicaid should not be confused with Medicare (here’s how to know the differences between the two).

6. Telemedicine (not health insurance – but a way to get care)

Though telemedicine isn’t a form of insurance, it’s a helpful service that people are turning to during a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. With telemedicine, you pay a monthly membership fee and, when you use the service, you may also pay a charge for the ‘televisit.’

Telemedicine connects you with virtual doctors who can diagnose and treat your non-emergency medical conditions, including:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Behavioral and mental health services
  • Common cold
  • Fever
  • Flu
  • Men’s health issues
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pink eye
  • Sore throat
  • Skin conditions
  • Sinus infections
  • Women’s health issues

Telemedicine doctors can also prescribe medications for certain conditions and submit the order to your pharmacy of choice. You can get a telemedicine quote with no obligation to you.

We will continue to provide educational resources to you throughout the Coronavirus pandemic:

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Get rest. When thinking of healthy habits, sleep often falls low on the list. But chronic sleep deprivation can increase heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and many other illnesses. Wash your hands. The coronavirus pandemic serves as a major reminder to wash our hands frequently and correctly. Wash your palms, fingernails, and the backs of your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. 2. Reduce Stress Stress often increases with age, leading to a host of health problems. Finding ways to lower your stress can go a long way. There are many simple ways to reduce stress in your daily life. Try things like working out or moving daily, spending more time with friends and family, and reducing your caffeine intake. And don't forget to laugh more. 3. Save Money on Medications The cost of prescription drugs can really take a lot out of your wallet. So if you're used to getting brand-name medications, consider asking your doctor for a generic alternative. It could save you money in the long run. For seniors especially, the cost of medications continues to rise at an alarming rate. One of the simplest ways for seniors to save is to find and compare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D). Start by comparing quotes, or talking to an insurance agent who is willing to research the medications you take. The right agent will have knowledge of all the pharmacies close to your home and plans available in your area. He or she can also help you identify ways to save on your prescriptions. 4. Use a Health Savings Account (HSA) You may have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA) through your employer (or previous employer). Using an HSA can save you money because your contributions are pre-tax dollars and can accrue interest. And unlike a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), the HSA is owned by you, so it can carry over into your retirement. And there is no deadline on when you can spend the funds. 5. Know The Difference Between Emergency Care and Urgent Care Some people don't know the difference between emergency care and urgent care. But knowing which option to use in a given situation can save you money: Emergency room visits can cost far more than urgent care center visits. Your initial reaction might be to go to the ER when you need medical treatment but can't see your primary care doctor. But in many cases, an urgent care facility will serve you just as well at a lower cost. Start by keeping a list of nearby ERs and urgent care centers handy. An urgent care visit is good for a minor illness or injury, but if your condition is life-threatening, always go to the ER. You might also consider going the telemedicine route, which entails talking to a doctor online, rather than going to an in-person appointment. Telemedicine usage also gained momentumduring the coronavirus pandemic. 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You can also find more tips to avoid medical debt in this article.
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