Around 30 million people in the U.S. recently filed an unemployment claim, who may also be concerned regarding their health insurance options. Since a large number of people in the country receive health coverage through their employers, and with loss of jobs they have also lost their health insurance coverage. Though the government has recently announced some emergency stimulus packages, to provide people with a bit of financial relief, still an increasing number of Americans are without income and stable health coverage. Before COVID-19 also, there were millions of Americans living without health insurance.
Unemployed and Uninsured need to Understand their Health Insurance Options
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught everyone to have at least some level of health coverage. A recently passed legislation has made testing for the virus-free for all Americans, irrespective of whether they are with or without health insurance, but the Cost of COVID-19 treatment is an altogether different story.
Uninsured residents who unfortunately end up requiring hospital care could be responsible for paying an enormous bill. Kaiser Family Foundation estimated COVID-19 treatment cost, and its researchers found that the average total cost for one stay of patients who had no complications was around $10,000, and for patients who experienced major complications the amount escalated to $20,000.
Americans who have lost insurance due to recent unemployment do have options to obtain health coverage, however, the options will depend on their financial situation. Perhaps any level of coverage will be significant that will help people protect their pocket down the line. Some of the health insurance options for the unemployed are:
Individual or Family Health Coverage
Unemployed Americans can directly purchase individual and family health insurance plans through their state health insurance exchanges. Losing employer-sponsored health insurance or student health insurance will allow unemployed individuals to be eligible for a qualifying life event. Such uninsured individuals can shop for health plans through the state’s insurance marketplace. These individuals have 30-60 days to sign-up for a plan after they become eligible for a qualifying life event because their special enrollment period will close after the 60 days.
Due to COVID-19 some of the states have temporarily reopened their enrollment period, thereby allowing uninsured populations a chance to have some coverage. States having their health exchange only have the authority to reopen their enrollment period, and states operating through the federal marketplace, cannot decide to reopen the open enrollment period. California is the only state that has extended the special enrollment period till June 30, and the resident of this state can enroll for a health plan till June 30.
Health plans are required to provide a minimum set of essential health benefits, and the plans based on the level of coverage they provide have been categorized on different pricing tier. Depending upon their income, uninsured can apply for subsidies from their health insurance exchange. Individuals can find a handy tool on different health insurance portals, to calculate and estimate premiums and subsidies based on their income, age, family size, etc. People can also estimate their Medicaid eligibility.
Check Eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP
Unemployed and uninsured Americans should know that there is no enrollment period for CHIP or Medicaid, unlike the state health insurance exchange plans, and they can sign up for Medicaid plans at any time. While enrolling through state exchange programs, individuals will get to know whether they are eligible for Medicaid or not. The uninsured can also apply for Medicaid through their states’ Medicaid offices.
Unemployed individuals can qualify for Medicaid, depending upon their income alone, if they reside in any of the 36 states that expanded Medicaid. In these 36 states, individuals can qualify for Medicaid if they make less than 133% of the federal poverty level. In the remaining states, individuals will qualify if their income is less, and they are elderly, disabled, caretaker of a child or pregnant.
COVID-19 testing services are covered for individuals enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP have to cover COVID-19 testing at no cost, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It includes the test cost along with the visit to the physician’s office, clinic, or hospital, where the test was carried out.
People who recently lost their employer-sponsored health insurance may be eligible for coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. This allows people to continue with the same health insurance coverage they had under their employer. However, people will be responsible to pay the cost of the premium also that was paid by their employers. People can continue their COBRA coverage for up to 18 to 36 months. However, people should remember that COBRA coverage is quite expensive, and individuals are required to pay their premium and the amount that their employer was paying along with an added 2% fee.
Obtain Coverage through Family’s or Spouse’s Health Plan
Obtaining health insurance through family or spouse plan is possible only for some people. If individuals lost their jobs and health insurance, then they become eligible for qualifying life events that allow them to get included to their spouse or family plan as a dependent. However, individuals looking to enroll in their family’s insurance plan can obtain coverage until they are 26 years of age.
Hospital Charity or Community Care Programs
Uninsured and unemployed individuals requiring emergency care should remember, some hospitals have charity care programs, for people who cannot afford the treatment cost. People short of funds can visit such hospitals to benefit from their charity work. In the case of minor illness, such individuals can also take the help of community health centers offering free or low-cost care by associating with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).