Whether the business you work for is shutting down temporarily or it needs to scale back its staff, make sure to ask your employer when your last day of health coverage is. This will help you better understand the timeline you have for your existing health care coverage. It helps ensure that you don’t have a gap in your coverage, during this time of a health crisis when you might need healthcare. Once you have this information, there are some steps you can take to ensure you have health insurance to keep you and your family protected from healthcare costs.
If you need to refresh your understanding of health insurance and how to choose the right type of insurance or estimate the out of pocket costs, check out the video tutorials and tools at the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension website: Health Insurance 4U to help you brush up on your knowledge.
Once you are feeling more confident about health insurance, it’s time to consider your options:
- Sign up for COBRA
Short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act this option allows you to retain and continue your current employer health coverage for up to 18 months. In this way, everything you’re used to stays the same – same doctors, networks, co-pays, and deductibles. The downside is that you will pay your entire monthly health insurance premiums yourself. That premium will include the part you usually paid plus any amount your employer was paying. You’ll want to find out if this option is financially feasible for you.
- Sign on to your Spouse or Partner’s Health Coverage
If your spouse/partner has health insurance, you may be able to be added to that person’s healthcare plan coverage. Your spouse/partner will need to talk with someone in the human resources department to ask what options are available. The cost of that additional coverage will come out of the paycheck for your family, so before you make the decision, you may want to comparison shop.
- Buy your own plan on the health insurance Marketplace
The Affordable Care Act introduced an online health insurance marketplace that allows you to buy your own private plan. Here in Washington, this is the Health Benefit Exchange. The COVID-19 special enrollment period is extended through May 8, 2020. Existing customers with income or household changes can self-serve by signing in to report changes. For answers to frequently asked questions visit COVID-19 FAQ page.If you recently lost your health insurance related to COVID-19 closures, you have 60 days of your employer coverage end date to enroll in coverage through WAHealthplanfinder.org or the WAPlanfinder app. Washington Apple Health coverage is available year round if you qualify.The benefit of the Marketplace plans is that depending on your income, you may qualify for subsidies and tax credits. This can reduce the cost of the premiums. There are several different plans to choose from. All of them have a deductible (the amount you need to pay before health insurance pays for care) and typically the lower the monthly premiums, the higher the deductible. If you qualify for those tax credits and subsidies for the premium, that may offset the higher deductible amount and so your overall out of pocket costs may even out.Be advised, that in order to get those credits and subsidies, you need to purchase the plans through the Marketplace or an accredited health insurance broker/ provider. Talking with a Marketplace Navigator is a great way to find out your options. They can be found on the website above.To find out how much of a subsidy you may qualify for you can go to this website: https://www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/. It will ask you for some information and then will direct you to the next steps.
- Apply for Medicaid and/or Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which in Washington state is called Apple Health. Medicaid and CHIP provides free or low-cost health coverage to millions of Americans, including some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. If your income is low, you may be eligible for Medicaid (covers families) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (covers children only). To find out if you can qualify go to Apple Health, and complete the online form and determine the next steps.In Washington, Connect Washington (https://www.washingtonconnection.org/home/ ) is a one-stop-website that helps you apply for not only Apple Health, but other assistance programs. There is also more in-depth information available on the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services website: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/food-cash-medical
Being without health insurance during this time can be scary. Take the steps you need to protect your family now and in the future. Your wellbeing now and in the future will depend on it.
Current as of 04/10/2020
Adapted for Washington State by C. Koehler, Washington State University Extension, from the original, What to Do if You’ve Lost Your Health Insurance Due to the Coronavirus Crisis, by Maria Pippidis, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.
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