We hope you’re all doing well and staying healthy at this difficult time. Having said that, we know that unemployment – or the risk of imminent unemployment – concerns a lot of you. While both the state and federal governments are taking steps to provide stimulus payments and unemployment benefits at this time, you might be wondering what to do about health insurance coverage.
Federal law does require employers to allow you to remain enrolled in your group healthcare plan when you’re laid off. The COBRA law allows you to continue in the same plan, if you wish, but you have to pay the entire cost of the premiums (including your former employer’s share). That might work for a few people, particularly those whose spouses are still employed and can cover the cost of the premiums, but for many unemployed people the cost of the entire premium simply is not feasible.
So, what else can you do about healthcare coverage if you’ve recently become unemployed?
First, know this: If you’ve lost your health insurance due to job loss, you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. This means that you can enroll in a new healthcare plan outside of the usual Open Enrollment period (which normally happens in the fall).
If you elect to pursue coverage through Covered California, you might be eligible for a subsidy to help cover the cost of your premiums. Keep in mind that if you’ve applied in the past and didn’t receive a subsidy, that is likely to change now since your income has changed.
Also, those with lower incomes might be able to obtain free health insurance through Medi-Cal.
The next round of coronavirus relief legislation is set to proceed through Congress in coming weeks. Several lawmakers have called for 100 percent COBRA coverage, or otherwise addressing the shortage of healthcare coverage in light of widespread unemployment. It is possible one of those provisions might work out for you. However, if you would prefer to proceed with obtaining coverage now – and that is likely the wise thing to do – then give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you compare health insurance plans.