Healthcare Coverage Options and COVID-19

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.

Medicaid

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 (CHIP), even if their parents do not qualify for Medicaid. Income limits in CHIP are higher than those in Medicaid.

Marketplace Coverage

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has declared a special enrollment period for plans sold on the marketplace, Healthcare.Gov. From February 15, 2021 until August 15, 2021, anyone can sign up for healthcare. A new federal law increases financial assistance for people at all income levels and many individuals will qualify for a plan with zero premium, so you should check if you qualify even if you have not in the past. And if you receive unemployment benefits at any point during 2021, you may be eligible to enroll through the marketplace in a health plan with zero premium and a low deductible. You can enroll in coverage or find information on your state's marketplace at Healthcare.gov. Read more about how the marketplace works and choosing the right plan for lung disease patients. 

COBRA

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. Usually, employers do not have to contribute toward COBRA premiums, so this is likely to be more expensive than your job-based coverage was.

However, the federal government will cover the full premium cost of COBRA coverage from April 1 to September 30, 2021. Your employer is required to notify you if you are eligible for zero-premium COBRA by May 31, 2021. If you are eligible, you will have 60 days from when you get the notice to enroll, and you can choose to have your coverage take effect retroactively, beginning on April 1, 2021. If you believe you are eligible for this temporary premium assistance but have not received a notice yet, you may contact your employer for more information.

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 healthcare coverage, you should compare the costs, covered benefits and provider networks of all of your options before you make a selection.

Buyer Beware!

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 new financial assistance makes marketplace coverage more affordable, so you should check out your options for marketplace coverage again even if they seemed too expensive in the past. "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: April 13, 2021

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