Laid-off Workers May Take Help of Obamacare to obtain Health Insurance

A new study suggests that millions of Americans who have been affected by the pandemic may be eligible for financial help with health insurance. The newly unemployed Americans might not be aware of the fact that they can obtain public insurance or subsidies through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces. This is an analysis published by the Urban Institute of Washington D.C. and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in N.J.

According to this analysis, about 60% of the 24 million uninsured workers of the most vulnerable industries and their family members are eligible for Medicaid or Obamacare insurance subsidies, despite having unemployment benefits. More than 14 million workers in this group are from the hotel, restaurant, retail, home health, daycare, and transportation services. However, health coverage varies in states that expanded Medicaid and the states that did not.

Workers of the states that have expanded Medicaid are more likely to be eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage compared to states that have not expanded Medicaid if they get unemployment benefits. 37% of workers are eligible for Medicaid in expansion states, whereas only 14% of workers are eligible for Medicaid in the non-expansion states. The difference further widens up, if the workers are not getting unemployment compensation.

Workers losing their health insurance become eligible for subsidized coverage, unfortunately, many workers will not avail of this benefit. In states that did not expand Medicaid, the options are much leaner for the newly unemployed workers. However, the researchers are coming up with some good policy ideas to provide coverage to the eligible newly unemployed American workers, so that they have insurance during the crisis.

Some of the ideas suggested by the researchers include a special open-enrollment period nationwide for Obamacare marketplace plans, increasing the federal funds to support Medicaid plans, expanding Medicaid eligibility in the states that have not expanded Medicaid, and increasing subsidization of marketplace plans.

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