With coronavirus cases spiking across the country and the U.S. officially in a recession, it's more important now than ever to make sure you have health insurance to protect yourself and your loved ones. Unfortunately, with millions of Americans left unemployed due to COVID-19-related closures and with many others struggling financially, far too many people could find themselves without coverage.
If you're one of the uninsured, you have a few different options for getting covered that you need to look into ASAP.
Opt for COBRA coverage
If you're without coverage due to a recent job loss, you may be entitled to remain on your employer's plan thanks to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Workers who leave their job for any reason must be given at least 60 days to elect COBRA and keep their coverage.
The big benefit of opting to keep your employer's policy is that your coverage won't change and you can keep seeing your doctors. The downside, however, is that you will likely have to pick up the full cost of the premiums once you've been let go. If your employer was subsidizing the cost before, your policy could become much more expensive and you could be in for a major financial shock.
See if you qualify for a special enrollment period
You don't have to stick with your employer-provided coverage, even if it's open to you. You may also have the option to sign up for individual coverage, either through an Obamacare marketplace or directly with an insurer.
Normally, you can sign up for coverage only during periods of open enrollment. That's over for 2020 (it ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 18, 2019 in most states). However, you can get covered outside of open enrollment under certain circumstances when qualifying life events happen. Losing health coverage because of a job loss counts as a qualifying life event, as does divorce, aging off your parents' health insurance, or moving outside of the region where your insurer provides coverage.
If you have a qualifying life event and can sign up for an individual plan on an Obamacare exchange, you may be able to get subsidies to help you cover premiums. This could make these policies much more affordable than COBRA, especially if you're unemployed and don't have a lot of money coming in.
Check Medicaid eligibility
Medicaid is government-provided insurance that you can sign up for any time if you meet income and asset requirements. Obamacare expanded who qualifies for Medicaid in many states, so you may be eligible with income up to 138% of the federal poverty level. You can check online to see if you're able to qualify and, if you are, you'll be able to get medical care at a very low cost or even for free.
Sign up for short-term coverage until open enrollment
If you aren't eligible for COBRA, can't sign up for Medicaid, and didn't have a qualifying life event, your options are limited. You'll need to wait to get a comprehensive policy until the next open enrollment period, but you may be able to sign up for a short-term policy to provide at least some protection until then.
Just be aware that short-term plans aren't subject to Obamacare's requirements, so they don't have to provide essential benefits or accept people with pre-existing conditions, and they may have lifetime coverage limits as well.
Don't wait to get covered
Getting sick when you don't have insurance can be financially devastating. To make sure that doesn't happen to you, sign up for coverage ASAP. You'll have the peace of mind of knowing you and your loved ones can get care if you need it, and you won't risk getting stuck with thousands of dollars in bills if something goes wrong.