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Here’s what you need to know about getting health insurance if you lost a job during the pandemic Oct 17, 2020

Millions of workers have lost their jobs — and their employer-sponsored health insurance — due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But other options are available to those who lose health coverage. These include Medicaid, an Affordable Care Act marketplace plan, job-based coverage from a spouse or parent, short-term health plans and coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, known as COBRA. Uninsured kids may also get coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. 

Below, is an outline of each option and costs in more detail.

Size of the problem

But first, how big is the problem?

Employer-sponsored coverage is the most common form of health insurance for Americans.

Around 175 million workers and their dependents had coverage last year, according to a recent study published by researchers at the Employee Benefit Research Institute and W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

In the spring, unemployment ballooned to levels unseen since the Great Depression.


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That caused up to about 15 million people (nearly 8 million workers and 7 million dependents) to lose coverage through employer-sponsored health insurance as of June 2020, according to the joint EBRI-Upjohn report.

Many of these workers may have kept their insurance in the event of a temporary layoff, or furlough, researchers said. And others were likely able to find insurance elsewhere.

Roughly a third of those who lose employer coverage due to the pandemic this year will become uninsured, the Urban Institute estimated.


Workers should first consider Medicaid in the event of job loss, according to Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Medicaid — public health insurance — will likely be the most comprehensive and affordable insurance option, generally with low (or no) premiums and deductibles for care, Pollitz said.

Workers can also enroll year-round and don’t have to wait for an open-enrollment period.

“Medicaid is a safety net for people when they have low income,” Pollitz said. “You just have to be having a hard couple of months [to qualify for coverage].”

The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, made it easier to qualify for Medicaid in many states.

More than 60% of people who lose job-based coverage during the pandemic may be eligible, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.

In states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, individuals with income below 138% of the federal poverty level can generally qualify. (That equates to roughly $1,500 a month for single people.)

It’s more difficult to qualify in the dozen or so states that didn’t expand Medicaid, Pollitz said.

Medicaid only considers current income, rather than income earned earlier in the year. That makes it more likely that newly unemployed workers can qualify based on their current financial situation.

There also isn’t an asset test that disqualifies those with retirement savings, for example.

Insurance via spouse or parent

Around a third of workers who lose a job during the pandemic will get insured through a family member, according to an estimate from the Urban Institute.

Children can remain on a parent’s health plan up to age 26 per the ACA. More than 2 million have coverage through this provision.

ACA marketplaces

Workers who lose employer-sponsored coverage can also buy private insurance via marketplaces offering plans through the ACA — also known as Obamacare — at Healthcare.gov.

These are comprehensive health plans that cover doctor and hospital visits, prescriptions and maternity care, for example.

Nearly 11 million Americans had coverage through these exchanges as of March, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Source: www.cnbc.com
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