If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught millions of Americans one thing, it’s that having health insurance is a necessity. The massive loss of jobs caused by the pandemic has left many Americans scrambling for health insurance. It’s stressful enough to lose a job, but when you add a lack of health insurance, the stress becomes unbearable.
Fortunately, there are several ways to regain health insurance.
Check into COBRA
Many employers offer COBRA health insurance, which is a continuation option granted to American workers. COBRA allows you to extend the health insurance you had under your former employer’s plan. If you become eligible for COBRA health insurance, you can receive coverage up to 36 months after losing your job. The bad news is your former employer is no longer legally obligated to cover the cost of insurance premiums. Because of the high cost of coverage, some Americans cannot afford to pay COBRA health insurance premiums.
Explore the Health Care Marketplace
The health care marketplace helps Americans that lost jobs and no longer receive health insurance benefits to enroll in a plan. Typically, the enrollment period for gaining access to the health care marketplace runs from November through January. However, losing a job represents a “qualifying event” that opens up the enrollment period at any time. Other qualifying events for immediate access to the health care marketplace include a change in marital status or a death in the family.
Buy Stop-Gap Coverage
Insurance companies develop stop-gap health insurance policies to help American workers bridge the gap between when they lose a job and when they secure employment. Also referred to as short-term insurance, the policies provide health insurance for 364 days. This means you can go with this option, but you have around one year to find an employer that offers health insurance coverage. Also, 11 states do not allow insurance companies to offer stop-gap health insurance policies. Stop-gap policies do not offer some of the benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as covering the costs associated with a catastrophic disease.
Determine Whether You are Eligible for Medicaid
Losing a job means you have also lost a steady stream of income. This can mean you are income-eligible to receive Medicaid benefits or the financial assistance offered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Income requirements differ depending on the state where you live. Find out if you qualify for Medicaid by accessing the eligibility form found on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website. You can apply for Medicaid or CHIP benefits at any time but remember you have to meet the income requirements established for both safety net programs.
Take a Chance with No Health Insurance
You can opt to go without health insurance until you find a new job or when open enrollment for the healthcare marketplace starts again. Even if you choose not to have health insurance for just a month or two, you are putting yourself at risk of having to come up with a substantial amount of money to take care of an unexpected medical condition. Having to pay out of pocket for medical expenses can force you into considerable debt. Filing for bankruptcy might be the only option to recover from the high costs of a medical emergency. If you receive a clean bill of health, and there is a good chance you will find employment in just a couple of weeks, then the time spent shopping around for health insurance is not worth getting insurance.
Losing your job and health insurance can shake your world, but you should know that you are not alone. Millions of Americans have suffered job and health insurance losses because of Coronavirus. Save your money and downsize your budget to get you through this difficult time.