Options for health insurance if you lose your job because of COVID-19

By Regence
April 20, 2020

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs in recent weeks due to the impact of COVID-19, which has shut down businesses across the country. If you're one of them, the loss of your job may mean you must make an important decision about your health insurance coverage.

Here’s a guide to some options, which differ depending on your circumstances. Your state’s department of insurance is also a good resource for information.  

Continue with the plan you had at work through COBRA

Businesses with 20 or more employees are required to allow employees to keep their health insurance for up to 18 months after they lose their job under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). However, COBRA can be costly because you must cover your employer’s cost of the premium in addition to your employee portion.

The health insurance industry is lobbying Congress to fully subsidize COBRA premiums for individuals who lose their employer-sponsored coverage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Check your Medicaid eligibility – even if you don’t think you qualify

You may be eligible for Medicaid, especially if you live in one of the 37 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (includes Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington). In those locations, adults qualify if their current income is up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL). That shakes out to $1,467 a month for individuals, $1,983 for a family of two and $3,013 for a family of four. You can apply anytime through your state Medicaid agency.

Also, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can help kids even if their families make too much for Medicaid.

Learn more about Medicaid and CHIP.

If you’ve lost job-based coverage but don’t qualify for Medicaid, consider the Affordable Care Act marketplaces

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established marketplaces to purchase health insurance on the individual market. Anyone who loses a job with health insurance is automatically eligible for a special 60-day enrollment period. Some states, like Washington, are also allowing uninsured people to sign up for a health plan – even without a life-changing event like a job loss – through May 8, 2020.

The ACA marketplaces typically offer several health plan choices, and premiums are subsidized on a sliding scale according to income.

Sign up through the federal health exchange or your state’s insurance marketplace.

You may be able to jump to a family member’s health plan

If you lose your job and your health insurance, you should be able to join your spouse’s employer plan. But you must do it within 30 days of losing your own coverage. Call the employer to find out how.

As part of the ACA, if you are younger than age 26, you can be added to your parents’ plan. Your parents will have to contact their employer or insurer.

Don’t forget Medicare if you are 65 or older

If you are age 65 or older and delayed signing up for Medicare because you were still working and still covered by your employer's plan, you are eligible to sign up if you’ve lost your employer coverage. Learn more.

The coronavirus pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to our nation, touching every facet of American life. In the face of these challenges, we continue to advocate for immediate actions by Congress and the Administration to help consumers maintain the health insurance coverage they have and access the coverage they need.