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What to Do If You Lose Your Health Insurance

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COVID-19 and the ensuing recession has been just so devastating for families across the country, as millions of Americans have lost their jobs—their health insurance—and in some cases both.

Here to address and discuss these issues is Christopher Wells from nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies. So Chris…welcome back!

Chris. Thanks Al, good to be here. You are right, at a time when it is most needed, millions of people have lost their coverage, many as a result of their own job loss or a parent or spouse who lost their job. Whatever the case, there are some options available for to regain coverage which can help mitigate out-of-pocket health care costs. 

Al. Well-- that’s encouraging.  So if you’ve lost your insurance…Where do you start?

Chris. It pays to do your homework and consider all your options. First, if you were terminated from employment or had your hours reduced, had a death or divorce of a covered employee, or lost dependent status, you may be able to keep your previous insurance through the government’s COBRA continuation coverage.

Al. Well Chris, I think COBRA can be pretty expensive, right? So…is that really the most affordable option?

Chris. It depends. Employers sometimes pay the entire cost or subsidize COBRA coverage for terminating employees, but, in some cases, it can be more expensive because the employer is no longer responsible for paying part of the workers’ coverage cost and instead, the entire cost of coverage can be charged to the COBRA recipient.

Al. Alright…well putting COBRA aside….if your spouse is still working then  couldn’t you potentially be added to their employer’s insurance plan?

Chris. Correct, and because of COVID, the IRS is allowing workers to add additional family members to their insurance coverage outside the usual enrollment period, that is, as long as their employers allow the change. Also, don’t forget that if you are under the age of 26, you can still be added to your parent’s insurance, so that’s an option as well.

Al. Got it….Now, you mentioned something about the enrollment period being waved because of COVID. So then-would this also be applicable for the Health Insurance Marketplace, or …what a lot of folks refer to as “The Exchange”?

Chris. Yes, great question and that’s true for people who meet these requirements. But you would need to apply within 60 days of losing your coverage to be eligible.

Al. Well…then we should underscore that timing here is a critical factor.

Now are there any other options we haven’t mentioned that our listeners should consider?

Chris. Other than Medicare and Medicaid, there are short-term plans available, the so called skinny plans, but its buyer beware -- read the fine print, because these plans are not required to cover certain essential health services and they can deny coverage based on your medical history.

Al: Well it appears the take-aways are: Buyer Beware and also for everyone to be timely should you need to replace and purchase new insurance.

Well Chris…good to be with you and thanks again for your insight and joining us today.

For more nonprofit health-related information, please visit www.TransamericaInstitute.org

This has been another episode of ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth.

I’m Al Waller on WYPR, Your NPR News Station –

Stay well….& thanks for listening. 

Al Waller is a long time native of the Baltimore area. He entered the field of Human Resources Management starting as an HR Generalist with PwC (Pricewaterhouse-Coopers). This marked the beginning of a 30 year career that advanced into the management level for locally and globally based corporations. His primary area of expertise has focused on but not limited to: Talent Acquisition /Retention, Employee Relations as well as Training & Development.
Christopher Wells serves as the national program manager for Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS). He has an extensive background in healthcare research and global health programs, as well as health policy and innovation. He uses that experience to lead TCHS’ research, which aims to empower Americans to optimize their health coverage and outcomes. Chris has published studies on infectious disease, childhood obesity, and mental health. He also has initiated successful public health projects focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, access to safe water, vector control, and workplace wellness.