Millions of Americans have been laid off from jobs or had working hours reduced due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you had employer-based health insurance, this may mean you have lost your healthcare coverage. If you currently find yourself without healthcare coverage, it is important to understand your options.
For many families, especially those living in states that have expanded their Medicaid program, a reduction in your income may make you eligible for Medicaid. Even if you live in a state that has not expanded Medicaid, you may still qualify for Medicaid if you are a parent of a dependent child.
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Children may be eligible for coverage through the Children's Health Insurance Program, even if their parents do not qualify for Medicaid. Income limits in CHIP are higher than those in Medicaid.
If you have lost job-based healthcare coverage, you will qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up for coverage on the individual insurance market. You can use your special enrollment period beginning 60 days before your job-based coverage ends and will have until 60 days after you lose that plan to enroll in marketplace coverage. People with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level ($26,200 and $104,800 for a family of four) also qualify for financial assistance to help pay for plans on the marketplace.
Some states that have run their own health insurance marketplaces have opted to open a special enrollment period (SEP) to sign up for coverage regardless of whether you lost job-based coverage. If you live in one of these states and did not sign up for a health insurance plan during open enrollment, you can sign up for a plan now.
States that have opened a SEP:
- California (Until August 31, 2020)
- Colorado (Until April 30, 2020)
- Connecticut (Until April 17, 2020)
- District of Columbia (Until January 31, 2021)
- Maryland (Until December 15, 2020)
- Massachusetts (Until June 23, 2020)
- Minnesota (Until April 21, 2020)
- Nevada (Until May 15, 2020)
- New York (Until December 31, 2020)
- Rhode Island (Until April 30, 2020)
- Vermont (Until August 14, 2020)
- Washington (Until May 8, 2020)
If you lose job-based coverage, you may have the option of continuing healthcare enrollment for 18 months through a law called COBRA. If you are eligible for COBRA coverage continuation, your employer must tell you. Employers do not have to contribute toward COBRA premiums, so this is likely to be more expensive than your job-based coverage was.
Eligibility for COBRA does not exclude you from eligibility for other sources of health insurance, such as plans on the marketplace or Medicaid. However, once you enroll in COBRA, you are ineligible for marketplace subsidies and would not qualify for another marketplace special enrollment period if you dropped COBRA coverage. If you are eligible for multiple forms of health care coverage, you should compare the costs, covered benefits and provider networks of all of your options before you make a selection.
Make sure you and your family choose quality health insurance and know the risks of skimpy health plans that do not provide comprehensive coverage.
You may see advertisements for or hear of other plans that are cheaper than marketplace plans, but you should be careful to ensure that you select quality, comprehensive coverage for you and your family. "Skimpy" plans are less expensive because they provide much more limited coverage, limit benefits significantly, and do not have to cover pre-existing conditions. Some examples of skimpy plans are short-term, limited duration plans, farm bureau plans and health sharing ministry plans. Read more about the risk of these plans to lung disease patients.
Page last updated: October 16, 2020