As Job Losses Mount, Health Insurance Options For The Unemployed

May 18, 2020

The economic fallout from the coronavirus and the resulting  increase in unemployment could dramatically impact people’s access to health coverage. WHQR reports on how people can navigate their options during the pandemic.

As a coastal tourist area, our local economy has a higher-than- average percentage of service industry jobs. And the leisure and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic. 

Allison Witman is an economics and finance assistant professor at UNCW. She says she’s concerned about insurance and healthcare options for those who are now out of work. 

“There are really three options. Number one, you can do COBRA, which would be to continue paying the cost of your own health insurance from your previous employer, that can be quite expensive.[...]So number two, I would say go to healthcare.gov and price a marketplace plan. And then the third option [...] would be Medicaid.”

But eligibility for Medicaid depends on your age, health needs, and income level.  

Professor Witman says a 3-minute survey on healthcare.gov will determine if you qualify for the special enrollment period -- and that job loss or reduction in pay are qualifying events. 

“So if your income is reduced dramatically and you’re on a marketplace plan, you want to go back to the marketplace and update your income information, because again, you may be eligible for a subsidy [...] and so that could really lower the cost of your coverage. 

And says Professor Witman, you have 30 days to report your qualifying life event to healthcare.gov -- then after that, you have 60 days from this event to make changes to your health plan.