Over 185 million Americans — or, roughly half of the total population of the United States — rely on employer-provided insurance for their healthcare. Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to keep their plans as businesses have been forced to downsize due to government lockdowns.
We’ve talked extensively about the economic challenges that this country is facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and what laid off or furloughed individuals can do to make ends meet as we wait for recovery to take place. But there’s another storm brewing as a result of this pandemic, and it’s one that relates to healthcare coverage.
You’re Not Alone
According the Economic Policy Institute, it’s estimated that up to 12 million Americans may have lost their employer healthcare benefits as a result of job losses that have occurred due to the pandemic. This isn’t ideal for several reasons. For starters, it could inhibit people from seeking care or treatment for non-COVID-related issues at a time when overall health and wellbeing is perhaps more important than ever. And two, it can leave Americans in an even more fragile state than they already are in.
If you’re among the 12 million Americans that have lost healthcare coverage since February, the last thing you should do is nothing. It’s suggested that you take fast action to learn when your current benefits end and what your options are for coverage moving forward.
What to Do Now
- Understand: First, it’s important to know if you’ve truly lost coverage and when it ends. For instance, if you’ve been furloughed, there’s a good chance you’ll remain on your employer’s plan while you’re out of work. But if you’ve been laid off or let go, you’ll be without insurance after a particular date, usually the last day of the month from when you were eliminated.
- COBRA: If you’ve been laid off or left a former job, you’re likely eligible for COBRA. COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, permits people to stay on their former employer’s health plan for a set period of time. This option, however, is expensive, as you’re now on the hook for the total cost of the premium.
- Affordable Care Act (ACA): Despite how politically controversial this Act has become, it’s arguably never been more significant than it is now. If you’ve lost healthcare, you can visit the ACA marketplace and select from one of many healthcare coverage options. It’s likely to be the most affordable option for replacing your previous healthcare coverage, even if the plan you select isn’t as good as what it was under your previous employer. After you’ve lost your job, you’re eligible to enroll via a special enrollment period and any pre-existing conditions you have are fully covered.
- Medicaid: This is a healthcare option based on income. It’s ideal for older Americans as well as a temporary solution for certain out of work Americans. There is no premium cost associated with Medicaid in most states, however eligibility can be an issue in that not everyone will qualify for it.