What to do if you’ve lost your insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. In the last four weeks, more than 17 million people have filed for unemployment, and there are likely millions more needing assistance who have not yet been able to get through to their state’s unemployment offices to file a claim. About half of Americans rely on their jobs for health insurance benefits, which means millions of people are losing or have already lost their insurance coverage. With the U.S. having the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, now is the time when Americans need their health insurance coverage the most.

If you recently lost your job, here are some ways you can get health coverage:

Health Insurance Marketplace

The “Marketplace” or “Exchange” is a website that helps people find Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” health insurance plans. The website is run by either the federal government or your state, depending on where you live. People can usually enroll in a health plan during an open enrollment period in November and December, but you can also enroll in a plan after having a special qualifying life event that happens outside of the typical open enrollment period. Losing health coverage because you lost your job counts as a qualifying life event and will allow you to enroll in a plan through the Marketplace during a special enrollment period.

Depending on your income, you may be eligible for subsidies to lower the cost of the premiums on a new insurance plan. When you apply for health coverage through the Marketplace, you receive a premium subsidy determination, which will lower the amount of your monthly premiums and also possibly your copayments, coinsurance and deductible. You can apply for these subsidies through the Marketplace website.
You can find insurance coverage options by going to Healthcare.gov and choosing your state of residence from the pull-down menu.

COBRA

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) health benefit provisions allow people who lose their jobs to continue to pay the premiums for their employer-provided health insurance so they can keep their coverage. You have 60 days from the date you lost your job to enroll in COBRA. Your former employer must tell your health insurance plan that you are no longer working there, and the health plan then has 14 days to provide you with information. You may also find COBRA information in the health insurance packet you received through your job when you first signed up for your health plan.

It is important that note that if you choose COBRA coverage, you will have to pay for the entire amount of the health insurance premium – your current contribution plus whatever your employer has been paying. For example, if your monthly premium is $300 and you currently pay 50% ($150) and your employer paid 50%, under COBRA, you would have to pay the entire $300. 

If you were already uninsured

In 2018, 28 million Americans were uninsured. Elected officials and public health leaders are telling uninsured people who believe they have COVID-19 to contact their local health department to locate a testing site or a health center.

Some states have emergency open enrollment for their Marketplace, which means that if you do not have insurance for any reason, you can enroll in a plan now. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. If you live in one of those states, you can find your Marketplace by going to Healthcare.gov and selecting your state from the pull-down menu.

This information is current as of April 14, 2020. You can find more information and resources for kidney patients by visiting our special coronavirus webpage at KidneyFund.org/coronavirus. AKF will update the page with important information for kidney patients and their caregivers as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold.

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About the Author

Deborah Darcy

Deborah Darcy is the director of government relations at the American Kidney Fund.

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