Coronavirus job loss: How to get health insurance when unemployed

You can keep your employer’s coverage through COBRA or try getting covered through your spouse’s employer's plan

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As the economy continues to suffer from the coronavirus pandemic, people are still losing their jobs -- and also potentially their health insurance through their employer.

Depending on the employer, some workers will continue to have coverage until the end of the month in which they are laid off, according to a report from AARP.

Meanwhile, some companies are trying to keep covering premiums for even longer, the website reported.

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“It's a fluid situation,” Wayne Sakamoto, a Florida-based independent health insurance agent and consultant, told AARP. “Some employers would like to at least extend coverage for another month, and hopefully keep people on their policies."

However, once that coverage ends, there are several options for people who want to avoid having a lapse in coverage in case they get sick.

Here are the options to consider, according to AARP:

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You can keep your employer’s coverage through COBRA

Businesses with 20 or more employees are required to allow employees to keep their health insurance for up to 18 months after they lose their job under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

However, if you choose this option, your premiums will increase. Instead of only paying the employee’s portion of premiums, you will also have to pay the employer’s part -- which could be 70 or 80 percent of the premiums. There are also administrative costs that can be up to 2 percent.

COBRA is a good option for people who want the same providers and coverage or who have already paid through their deductibles this year and would just have to start over with a new plan, AARP reported.

You can get coverage through your state marketplace or healthcare.gov

Even though open enrollment for individual coverage through state insurance marketplaces and healthcare.gov is usually in the fall, there are special circumstances -- including losing health insurance through your job -- that allow people to get covered.

To apply for the “special enrollment period” you need to have proof that you lost your employer coverage and you have to apply within 60 days, AARP reported.

According to the website, some states are opening a special enrollment period for a few months even if they didn’t lose their employer’s coverage.

If you choose to get coverage through your state marketplace or healthcare.gov, you will have to start the deductible period again and you could have different coverage and providers, AARP said.

Some people may also qualify for a subsidy to help pay the premiums, which can be calculated at each state marketplace, the website reported.

However, if you end up earning more than you expected before the end of the year, you could have to pay back some of the subsidy when filing for 2020 taxes, according to AARP.

For people who are 50 or older, a subsidy could be especially helpful, AARP reported. Medicaid could also be an option, depending on what state you live in and your income.

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You can try to get coverage through your spouse’s employer

If your spouse has health insurance through their employer, you could be added as a dependent midyear because you lost your insurance, AARP said. The extra amount that will cost depends on your spouse’s plan.

You can sign up for Medicare if you’re at least 65

One option for people who are 65 or older is Medicare, which they can sign up for at the Social Security website, AARP reported. However, if you didn’t sign up for Medicare when you turned 65 because you were working, you can’t enroll online, according to AARP.

In those cases, you have to mail in paperwork showing you had health insurance through your employer.

“If you signed up for Medicare Part A when you turned 65 but hadn't signed up for Part B because you were working, you have up to eight months after you leave your job and lose that coverage to add Medicare Part B,” AARP said.

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