Losing your job represents loss of income, and for most Americans, it also means losing critical health insurance. In this post, we’ll cover replacement options in very general terms because everyone’s situation is unique.
If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, or if you feel you will be in the future, now is the time to start looking for replacement coverage. As you can imagine, it could take some time to get through any enrollment process, and employers could shut down insurance coverage with little warning. Also, depending on the type of coverage you’re seeking, there might be Special Enrollment Periods during the COVID-19 pandemic that could be closing soon.
Furloughed employees can generally keep their company-sponsored health insurance during temporary leave; however, you’ll probably still need to pay your monthly contributions and any out-of-pocket expenses. If you have questions about your coverage, your HR department is a great resource for additional information.
Healthcare Coverage Options
Below is a high-level overview of options intended to get you thinking about what choice might be right for you and your family. There is one category of insurance to steer clear off: short-term policies. They’re priced inexpensively because they provide very few benefits.
Coverage under a family member’s insurance – If your spouse is still working and not at risk to lose their job, inquire about being added to their plan. Are you 26 or younger? Look into being covered by a parent’s plan.*
Medicaid – This jointly funded state and federal healthcare insurance program is designed for low-income individuals. Medicaid, known in Pennsylvania as Medical Assistance, might not be the first option that comes to mind, but it’s worth exploring, especially because Medicaid eligibility is based on monthly, not annual, income. Also, coverage can become retroactive for three months, as long as you were eligible during that period of time.
Because Pennsylvania is a state that adopted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the income requirements make this an attractive alternative. To learn more about those requirements, visit the PA Department of Human Services Medical Assistance page.
CHIP – Similar to Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is jointly funded state and federal healthcare. It provides coverage for children and teens younger than 19 who don’t qualify for Medical Assistance.
Health Insurance Marketplace – Created by the Affordable Care Act, the Marketplace provides one-stop shopping for the best available plan for you and your family. Financial assistance might be available through tax credits, depending on your income level.
COBRA – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives you the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by your employer’s health plan for a limited period of time. You pay all the premiums out of pocket, making COBRA coverage one of, if not the, most expensive options to replace job-based health insurance.
Replacing lost health insurance is a necessity, especially in light of COVID-19. Without insurance, any medical issue could result in thousands of dollars, if not more, in medical bills. If unpaid, those bills could cause financial problems for you for years. You can start your search using the screener tool at healthcare.gov. Access to Pennsylvania’s healthcare options begins here and gives you the choice to check Special Enrollment Periods as well as to check for Medicaid/CHIP qualifications and start a Marketplace application.
*MarketWatch, “Lost your job and health insurance due to coronavirus? Here’s how to get coverage before time runs out,” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/lost-your-job-based-health-insurance-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-heres-how-to-get-coverage-2020-04-04. Retrieved May 20, 2020.