COVID-19 has caused widespread panic across the globe, and that has quickly become apparent given the recent bear stock market, which hasn’t been seen since the Great Recession over a decade ago. You may have seen your IRAs and 401ks plummet in recent weeks because investors are scared.
Some economists are predicting that the United States could even see up to a 30% unemployment rate, as layoffs sore from the mandatory closings of restaurants, bars, gyms, coffee shops, and retail stores across the nation, trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease that is caused by the novel coronavirus. You may have experienced a recent layoff or reduced hours as a direct result of COVID-19, and if you have, your health insurance may have taken a hit as well (or gone away altogether). So, how can we afford our insulin during an economic crisis? Here is our (hopefully!) helpful advice:
If You’ve Lost Your Job
File for unemployment insurance immediately. Most states require that you’ve lived/worked in the state in which you’re applying for benefits for at least six months to qualify, and you don’t qualify if you quit or were fired from your most recent job. These bi-weekly payments have a cap (depending on your income and the state in which you live), but can definitely help you in the short term until you’re able to find new employment. Congress recently passed the COVID Stimulus Package, which includes expanded unemployment benefits (extending by 13 weeks), and enhances said benefits for four months. The program has also been broadened to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers.
Special Enrollment Period
It’s well-known that one must sign-up for health insurance during “open enrollment”, which is a time period, usually once a year, when individuals and employees of companies and organizations may make changes to or buy different health insurance plans. Under the Affordable Care Act, a change in your personal situation, such as getting married, having a child, or losing your health coverage (by way of losing your job) makes you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period, which allows you to enroll in health insurance outside of the typical open enrollment period.
In response to COVID, many Governors are creating SEPs (Special Enrollment Periods) to specifically address people’s concerns over having health insurance and affording their medication during the global pandemic. If you currently do not have health insurance (by choice), but are worried about affording your insulin, or are particularly concerned about contracting COVID19, you may be able to take advantage of a SEP in your state.
See If You Qualify for Medicaid
As of now, 36 states have expanded eligibility for their state Medicaid programs (to 138% FPL), which offer extremely affordable insulin and diabetes care. If you’re a low-wage worker whose employer doesn’t offer health insurance, and you can’t comfortably afford to buy a plan, see if you qualify for Medicaid. Many Governors are looking into expanding Medicaid even further during the national public health emergency.
Cash Relief is Coming
Congress recently passed a $2 trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package that includes direct cash payments to all American taxpayers. Lawmakers agreed to provide $1200 in a direct (single time) payment to taxpayers making up to $75,000 per year, with $5 less for every $100 per year a person makes all the way up to $99,000. Families will receive an additional $500 per child, in an attempt to create a safety net for people whose jobs and businesses have been negatively affected during this public health turned economic crisis. This bump of cash will help millions of Americans, including people with diabetes, afford their medications easier in the short term while longer-term policy solutions are worked out to help everyone during this crisis.
If All Else Fails, Reach Out for Help
If you’re still struggling to afford your medication, you can reach out to your insulin manufacturer for help: Lilly Cares, NovoCare, and Sanofi Patient Connection can help get you free or discounted insulin when you’re in a desperate spot. Currently, insulin manufacturers are not anticipating any supply-chain issues as a result of COVID-19.
Additionally, the diabetes online community (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) is an amazing resource of dedicated activists and helpful hands who are always more than willing to help fellow people with diabetes in need. Reach out to your friends and family and let them know you’re struggling. Ask your doctor if they have any samples of insulin you can take from the clinic for free. Let your struggle be known, so people can help you. Do not suffer in silence.
Have you had issues affording your medications and/or insulin during this global pandemic turned economic crisis? What strategies have helped you? Share this post and comment below, we love to hear your stories and suggestions!
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