The US economy is in a tailspin from COVID-19. Unemployment claims across the nation are up to record highs, with 6.6 million Americans filing claims just last week. Job losses across the service sector are particularly hard hit, as state-wide “stay at home” orders go into place closing anything from bars, shops, restaurants, and coffee shops to yoga studios and gyms.
Economists are predicting that over 47 million Americans could lose their jobs, totaling a 32% unemployment rate, which has, until recently, been unheard of. Unfortunately, for many Americans, health insurance is closely tied to employment, and if you suddenly find yourself unemployed with diabetes, panic can quickly arise. Here are some resources that can help you navigate these new waters:
See If You Qualify for Medicaid
36 states (and DC) have expanded Medicaid, which allows a working adult to make up to 138% FPL to qualify for coverage. Eligibility varies by state, but Medicaid offers excellent coverage for free or extremely cheap insulin and diabetes supplies. Applying for coverage and checking your eligibility is quick and easy.
Buy a Plan on an Exchange
Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, individuals (due to a qualifying life event like losing a job or getting married) can buy a health insurance plan on what is called an “exchange.” These are either run by your state of residence or through the Federal government. This simple website lets you compare plans and choose what’s best for you and your budget (you can also look at things like monthly premiums and deductibles, to make sure the insulin you need is actually affordable). Be sure to shop around for what will fit your needs best!
Jump onto a Family Member’s Insurance
If you’re under the age of 26, you can still maintain coverage on your parents’ health insurance plans, so if you’ve recently lost a job, you may be able to join their plan for the time being.
Additionally, if you’re married and your spouse has health insurance through their employer, losing your job is a qualifying event to jump onto their health insurance coverage. The rates may be higher since it’s not through your employer, but you can still get the coverage you need and the insulin you require. Employers may offer health insurance to same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partners, similar to coverage for married couples, although this can vary by state. Check with your spouse’s employer for eligibility requirements (proof of domestic partnership or marriage, etc.) and costs associated with coverage.
Time May Be on Your Side
Health insurance is offered on a monthly basis, so if you’re laid off from work the first week of the month, you will still have coverage for the remaining three weeks of that month. Take advantage of this time by reordering any and all supplies you’ll need (try mail-order to get a 90-day supply), and schedule any doctors’ visits (take advantage of telehealth appointments during the pandemic) or renew prescriptions that are almost out.
COBRA stands for The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, and it gives workers (and their families) the right to continue their group health benefits for a limited amount of time after a job loss. COBRA is notoriously expensive; individuals must pay both the individual portion of the plan and the employer’s portion (since you’re no longer an employee at the company, you now will have the cover both, plus an administrative fee, totaling 102% of the health insurance policy).
Some people prefer this option, because it offers continuity of care (same coverage policies, same doctors, same pharmacy), until they can find similar or better coverage somewhere else. To qualify, the employee has to have already been enrolled in their employer’s health insurance plan before losing their job/qualifying life event. COBRA coverage is only offered for a limited amount of time (up to 3 years).
Losing your job during a global pandemic while living with a chronic disease is scary, but hopefully choosing one of these options will help you navigate your new reality a little bit better. Have you been negatively affected by COVID-19? Have you recently lost your job and/or health insurance? What have you done to get insurance quickly? Share this post and comment below; we love to hear your stories.
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