With new unemployment benefits claims expected to reach a record-shattering 2.25 million over the next few weeks, millions are wondering what’s to come – especially as it pertains to health insurance for unemployed workers.
According to the U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index, approximately 35 million low-wage, low-hour jobs (defined as those with an average weekly income of less than $800) are at risk. These include jobs in the food and beverage, retail, education, entertainment, and travel industries. But high-wage jobs aren’t immune either. The Job Quality Index estimates that 1.9 million high-wage jobs, particularly those in the retail, auto, and travel industries, are also at risk.
Health insurance is often tied to your job. So, what are you supposed to do if you lose your coverage and your paycheck?
ACA Marketplace Reopens in Eleven States
Typically, Affordable Care Act (ACA) major medical plans are only available during the annual open enrollment period, but losing your job is considered a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) that enables you to apply for coverage through a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
Additionally, as of March 23, 2020, the health insurance marketplace has reopened to provide a Special Enrollment Period exclusively for those without insurance in the District of Columbia and 11 states, including:
- New York
- Rhode Island
There are a few reasons for the reopened Special Enrollment Period: it helps ease consumers’ concerns about health care costs so that the sick will not be deterred from seeking medical attention; it gives individuals a chance to receive premium subsidies that can only be received through the health insurance marketplaces; and it gives those who chose not to get coverage another opportunity to reconsider their choice and get covered.
Additionally, those who have recently lost health coverage due to job loss also have an opportunity sign up for a marketplace plan on any health insurance marketplace, regardless of whether the state has reopened their marketplace due to COVID-19.
All ACA-compliant major medical plans include coverage for all essential health benefits, including prescription drug coverage, pregnancy care, mental health services, coverage for pre-existing conditions, preventive care, and more. If you need coverage for these medical services, an ACA major medical plan could be the right choice for you.
COBRA for Unemployed Workers
The Continuation Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, is a federal law that gives employees who lost job-based health benefits the opportunity to continue their coverage under their former employer’s health benefit plan for a limited time. COBRA is available to those with qualifying circumstances, such as a job loss, a furlough, a reduction in work hours, or a gap between jobs.
The key benefit of COBRA is that it gives employees an extension of their existing health insurance plan. However, it’s important to know that the price you pay for coverage may not stay the same. Individuals could pay the plan’s entire premium for coverage up to 102% of the plan cost, and employers can keep 2% to cover administrative costs. As such, COBRA can an expensive health insurance options for someone who has lost job-based coverage.
In response to COVID-19, some employers who have had to reduce hours or lay off employees have chosen to continue to provide health insurance, at times at little to no cost to the employees. If you have been recently laid off and you’re entitled to COBRA, please make sure you check with your employer or benefits administrator regarding your costs under COBRA.
Other Health Insurance Coverage Options for the Unemployed
If you don’t live in a state where the health insurance marketplace has reopened, don’t have a Qualifying Life Event like job loss that would allow you to enroll in a Special Enrollment Period, or if extending your coverage under COBRA and/or an ACA major medical plan isn’t right for you, you may be wondering what other affordable health insurance options are available while unemployed. Fortunately, you can still get coverage.
Short-Term Health Insurance for Unemployed Workers
Short-term health insurance, or short-term medical insurance, is an affordable and flexible health insurance option for unemployed workers who can’t pay COBRA premiums or cannot afford an ACA-compliant plan. Short-term plans provide benefits for medical services including but not limited to:
- Doctor visits
- Urgent care
- Ground ambulance trips
- Emergency room care
- Home health care
- Child immunizations
- Physical therapy
- Diagnostic testing
- Emergency surgery
In some states, short-term health insurance also includes telehealth or telemedicine and prescription drug benefits.
Up until fairly recently, short-term health insurance coverage was limited to three to six months. Now, you can keep a short-term plan for up to one year with the option to renew coverage for up to two years, depending on where you live. Additionally, short-term health insurance offers next-day coverage, as well as the opportunity to apply at any time.
Short-term health insurance has lower monthly premiums than many ACA major medical options because it does not cover things like pre-existing conditions, mental health services, and pregnancy care.
Health Insurance Options to Keep You Covered
Maybe you can’t afford the coverage included in an ACA major medical plan, or you can’t pay a COBRA premium. If that’s the case, short-term health insurance is an affordable, flexible health insurance option that can keep you covered while you’re without job-based health coverage. For example, Vera Health offers plans starting at $53*, and you can get covered the very next day.
Short-term health insurance, ACA major medical plans, and COBRA coverage aren’t the only options if you’ve lost job-based coverage – click here to learn more.
If you’ve recently lost your job and your health insurance coverage, Vera Health is here for you whether you’re looking for individual or family insurance plans. Learn more about your coverage options and determine whether short-term health insurance makes sense for you by calling 888-499-1187 to chat with a Vera Health pro, or get a short-term health insurance quote online. Even if you decide you want more coverage than short-term health insurance can offer, we can help you find health insurance (the right health care plan for you!) – whether it’s with us or not.
*Data based on demographic of a Florida (33203) 24-year-old single male.
Short Term Medical coverage is not required to comply with federal market requirements for health insurance, principally those contained in the Affordable Care Act. Be sure to check your policy carefully to make sure you are aware of any exclusions or limitations regarding coverage of pre-existing conditions or health benefits (such as hospitalization, emergency service, maternity care, preventive care, prescription drugs, and mental health and substance use disorder services). If this coverage expires or you lose eligibility for this coverage, you might have to wait until an open enrollment period to get other health insurance coverage.