COVID-19 has exposed a vulnerability in the healthcare system that has existed in society for years: job-linked health insurance. People often rely on their jobs to provide health insurance, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have simultaneously faced the uncertainty of unemployment and losing health insurance.
With mass unemployment, suddenly many people are facing a global health pandemic with no health insurance.
Americans are losing jobs and health insurance
During the course of the pandemic, more than 45 million people have filed jobless claims, resulting in an unemployment rate of about 13 percent. By the middle of May, the Kaiser Family Foundation was already estimating that close to 27 million people who are newly unemployed could lose their job-linked health insurance.
The Center for American Progress (CAP), a nonpartisan policy institute, suggested expanding Medicaid to as many unemployed people as possible is the best solution. The good news is that even with current legislation in place, there are options available to those who have or will lose their health insurance. In fact, of the 27 million newly-unemployed, an estimated 12.7 million people are eligible for Medicaid. An additional 8.4 million people are eligible for subsidized plans through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
I’ve been affected, what are my options?
Did you lose your health insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Losing your employment and potentially your health insurance is frightening. If you have recently lost your job, first speak to your human resources department about your coverage options. Next, visit Healthcare.gov to fill out an application and see what coverage you’re eligible for.
Your options will depend on your age, location, household income, and the employer you or your policy holder had been working for. Losing job-based health insurance, (even if you were fired, laid-off, or quit) qualifies you for a special enrollment period. But, that period typically only lasts for 60 days for most policies.
So, now is the time to understand your options:
- Family health care plans: If you are under 26, the Affordable Care Act offers a provision to allow you to get on your parent’s group health plan. Or if you have a spouse or domestic partner with health insurance, your loss of job could count as a “qualifying event” to allow you to receive benefits through your partner’s plan.
- Medicaid: The joint federal and state program Medicaid, offers low-cost or possibly free coverage to eligible Americans. Currently, 36 states and Washington, D.C. have expanded their Medicaid coverage.
- Buying insurance: It’s possible to buy insurance through the regulated marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), or directly from an insurance provider. Learn more about where and how to purchase insurance.
Health insurance can seem overwhelming, but now more than ever, it is important to understand your eligibility - and the good news is the majority of people do have affordable options.
At Up to Us, we continue to monitor the ever-changing impacts from COVID-19 to equip you with the tools and resources to stay safe and informed.