How Do I Keep My Health Insurance If I've Lost My Job?
The latest numbers show a staggering 30 million Americans filed for unemployment in recent weeks, with 2.1 million of them in Texas. For a big chunk of those people, in the middle of a pandemic, that means a scramble to find health care — and health insurance.
As part of KERA's One Crisis Away series "Coronavirus and Life on the Financial Edge," Stacey Pogue talked with us about the Center for Public Policy Priorities new guide, titled "I just lost my job. How do I get health insurance?"
▸ INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS
On what to do if you've lost your job:
The first thing you should know is that your employer is likely going to give you notice that you could qualify for COBRA, which means a way to continue your current job-based insurance, but you'll have other options too.
A better, more affordable option for most people is going to be to check out healthcare.gov, the health insurance marketplace. Most Texans who get coverage in the marketplace get a subsidy. They get financial help to make their premiums affordable, and you can enroll your full family in that.
On Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program:
It's going to be a really important connection to coverage for a lot of kids and a lot of families with kids.
Children's Medicaid and CHIP will cover low income families. A family of two making up to $3,000 a month could enroll their kids in Medicaid or CHIP. You can enroll in Medicaid CHIP year round. You don't have to have a special enrollment period. It doesn't matter if you've lost your job or you haven't.
If you're low-income and you've got kids, now is the time to check out Medicaid and CHIP, and you can enroll your kids as long as they're under age 19, and you can do that at YourTexasBenefits.com.
On losing a job with no health insurance:
This is where it gets really hard and really frustrating, because if you lost your job, but you didn't have insurance to start with — and that's true for a lot of jobs in Texas, especially low wage jobs — there's no automatic way for you to get coverage.
Some people can get a special enrollment period for healthcare.gov. If you moved, if you've had a baby, if you've gotten married, if your income has risen so that it's above the poverty line, you can get a special enrollment period and go ahead and buy coverage now.
But most people who are losing their jobs and were uninsured had low-wage jobs to start with. They're just locked out, unless or until the Trump administration creates a new open enrollment period for the coronavirus, just as they have following other disasters, like Hurricane Harvey.
Interview excerpts were edited for clarity.
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