Tens of millions of Americans have joined the unemployment roll over the past month as the coronavirus pandemic forced an unprecedented shutdown of the nation's economy — meaning many workers have likely also lost their health insurance.
More than 50 percent of Americans get their health insurance through their employer. Since mid-March, close to 47 million Americans have sought jobless aid. A recent analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute forecast that 3.5 million workers lost their insurance in just the last two weeks of March.
If you are among the employees laid off, be sure to check your current health insurance benefits, because coverage may last through the end of the month.
There are options for workers who lose their coverage.
If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, you may be eligible to get a plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Individuals whose expected 2020 income falls between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (for individuals, that’s $12,490 to $49,960) can qualify for subsidies on their insurance premiums.
If you are eligible for your spouse’s job-based coverage, you may not be able to get lower costs on a plan, based on your income. When applying for health coverage through the marketplace, you'll need to report your expected unemployment compensation as income.n
Average ACA plan costs are $331 a month for the lowest tier, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Under current law, people who lose their job and employer-based insurance qualify for a special enrollment period through ObamaCare, but must provide proof that they lost their coverage. Typically, they need to apply within 60 days of losing their job for coverage.
Twelve states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- and the District of Columbia that control their own marketplace have established special enrollment periods to allow people to obtain coverage.
Another option for those who can afford it is COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. That typically allows workers at companies of 20 or more employees to extend their coverage for up to 18 months after losing their jobs. Individuals who select that option are then responsible for paying both their own and their employer’s portion of the premium, plus an extra fee.