How to Get Health Insurance During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Recent world events may have led you to believe that now is a bad time not to have health insurance. While we cannot judge your individual insurance needs, we can probably say that in general you should consider insurance.

But if you don’t have insurance coverage for work or are just laid off, it can be difficult to know exactly how to get health insurance. Let’s take a look at the options you have right now.

If you have lost your insurance coverage

If you recently lost your job due to a pandemic, you have two main options: buy insurance, or use COBRA , which allows you to keep the same coverage plan that your employer sponsored.

COBRA allows coverage to be extended up to 18 months, but it has pros and cons, according to Shobin Uralil, co-founder and COO of health savings account provider Lively . If you want to stay with your network providers for a chronic condition or take prescription drugs covered by your group’s plan, it may be worth using COBRA to help you maintain that level of care.

But, of course, cost can be a factor. When you have COBRA, you are responsible for the entire cost of your insurance coverage that your employer pays, not just the amount of your premium deducted from your paycheck. This monthly installment can come as a big shock. “Employees are protected from the true costs of the plan,” Uralil said.

If you cannot justify the cost of participating in the COBRA program, this may be a good time to find what is important to you in terms of health care, whether it is the wide availability of healthcare professionals in your area, a good prescription drug program. , or a reasonable surcharge.

You can purchase insurance from healthcare.gov or the state exchange, where you have 60 days after losing your job to qualify for a special enrollment period.

Uralil said you can also shop for Affordable Care Act coverage through sites like Stride , HealthSherpa, and eHealth .

If you didn’t have insurance

Maybe your employer or former employer did not offer health insurance, or you work at a job and want coverage right now.

Typically, you will have to wait until the open enrollment period to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But some states have reopened open admission periods to welcome residents who want coverage as soon as possible.

If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington DC, you may be eligible to register through a state exchange. AARP has a list of participating states and links to each state registration portal.

If you’re worried about paying for insurance coverage, Uralil advised you to remember that there are subsidies for people who earn less than $ 50,000 a year. The subsidy can significantly reduce the monthly amount you pay for coverage.

If you still have insurance

Still insured? You may be wondering if your coverage is sufficient.

A few changes to keep in mind during the coronavirus:

If you have a high deductible health plan (HDHP) and a health savings account (HSA), any coronavirus testing and treatment can be covered by your plan without affecting your status. (Typically, you do not get any of the services covered by your plan until you exhaust this high deductible.) The adjustment includes telemedicine visits and is valid until December 31, 2021.

In addition, your HSA pre-tax funds can now be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs and menstrual products. This is a permanent change included in the CARES Act. This is also good for FSA accounts; You used to be able to buy over-the-counter drugs with FSA, but menstrual care is a new addition.

Another thing that can be consoling: many insurance companies are cutting out the costs of testing and diagnosing coronavirus entirely, although you may still have to pay out of pocket for hospitalization or other treatment if you need it.

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