Laid Off? What to do about Health Insurance?

Expert says look for options to cover entire family

Tom Puckett
April 01, 2020 - 4:00 am

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) The governor-ordered closings of non-essential businesses has affected many of you. Some of you have been laid off or furloughed, and some of you have also lost your health insurance.

What do you do next?

"The good thing is there are options for employees," says Tom Sass of Blue Cross Blue Shield of WNY. "It comes down to the Affordable Care Act, and there are options for individual policies, and the nice thing is there's a broad range of policies." He says the NYS marketplace shows a number of programs available and some can be subsized. "There's also Medicaid and Child Health Plus. These are safety net products that have no preimums and based off their incomes, they could qualify."

What is the right approach?

"Make sure you understand what your household income is going to be and your future income to look like," says Sass. "You need to have coverage for yourself, but also for your spouse and your children. Remembering that will guide you to the right product."

One other option is COBRA. "COBRA is an option for those who are able to afford it and stick with the covreage they had with employers," says Sass.

COBRA allows laid off workers at many employers to pay to continue their health insurance coverage, but it can be prohibitively expensive. Being laid off also qualifies as a life event for most insurers, which means someone could get on a partner’s insurance outside of the normal open enrollment period.

Due to the coronavirus, a handful of states have reopened their individual insurance exchanges to people who didn’t find coverage during the regular sign-up windows that started last fall. People who have lost coverage through their employer are allowed to shop on the exchanges outside the regular enrollment period.

If you're fortunate enough to be hired back or find a new job with health benefits, Sass says you have time to decide.

"Typically, on an individual commercial plan, renewals are set on January 1, so that's when you can decide on whether to renew it," says Sass. "If you're on Medicaid, you have the option of 12 months of coverage once you qualify for that, and you also have COBRA extension as well." He says if you get re-hired, you can sign on for that coverage too.

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