DETROIT (WXYZ) — More than a million people in Michigan have filed unemployment claims due to COVID-19.
Some have lost their health insurance, too. The good news is for most lower income and middle class people, there is financial help available.
For many people, losing their job and their employer-sponsored health insurance is a dilemma they’ve never before faced.
On top of it, we’re in the middle of a pandemic – not the time to be going without coverage.
“Your first option is COBRA,” said Louise Norris, a health policy analyst for healthinsurance.org and verywell.com.
She says if you worked for a business that had 20 or more employees, and you’re losing your coverage, you should get a notification that COBRA is an option for you.
COBRA (which stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allows for temporary health insurance for people who have lost or left their jobs.
You have 60 days to decide whether or not you want to take COBRA.
If you go with COBRA, get ready for some sticker shock. Norris says you’ll have to pay all of the premium yourself.
It’s likely your previous employer had paid the majority of it.
“The upside to COBRA is you just keep your coverage. Nothing changes about your provider network,” explained Norris. “You’re not having to start over with a new deductible. You’re just continuing along as if nothing had ever changed.”
If you lose your employer-sponsored coverage, you also qualify for a “Special Enrollment Period” – where you buy your own coverage.
You can either do that through the health insurance Exchange or Health Insurance Marketplace – which is healthcare.gov -- or you can go directly to an insurance company.
“I would advise everyone to start at healthcare.gov because there’s pretty significant financial assistance available if you go that route. If you go directly to a health insurance company, you have to pay the whole thing yourself,” said Norris.
You also have 60 days to see what’s available on healthcare.gov. Clicking the “See If I Can Enroll” button will take you through a 2-minute anonymous survey to see what financial help you’d be eligible for – based on your age, zip code, and how much money you make or expect to make.
People with lower incomes could get subsidies. Others could receive tax credits.
“A single person can be earning almost $50,000 this year and get that tax credit, and for a family of 4 it goes up to $103,000. So it’s very much, like, helping middle class people,” Norris said.
Some people will find they’re eligible for Medicaid – a federal and state program providing free or low-cost health coverage. It’s for low income people, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
People experiencing low income temporarily can qualify. If you return to work, you can always get back onto your private health coverage.
And if you’re wondering if there are still work requirements to get Medicaid, the answer is no. A federal judge tossed out the Michigan Medicaid work requirements in a ruling on a lawsuit back on March 4, 2020.
Medicaid is available year-round. So, anytime your income falls below the eligibility level, you can go to sign up.
There is no open enrollment window or Special Enrollment Period. It’s just based on your income.
Good to know so you don’t waste your money.