If you’ve been let go from your job or lost your health benefits, here are your options for health insurance and some affordable alternatives too.
You are either part of the 12 million people who lost a job due to COVID-19, or you know someone who did. It’s scary to lose your job under normal conditions. Even worse is losing your job and health benefits at the start of a global health crisis. It may seem hopeless, but you have a few options to get some health protection in place for you and your family.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA).
If you had employer-sponsored health insurance before getting laid-off you can keep it up to 18 months under a federal employment law known as COBRA. Unfortunately, your former employer is not obligated to pay your monthly premiums. You have to pay the premiums. Most individuals have sticker-shock when they see the real cost of COBRA without the employer paying part. Then most everybody goes on a search for COBRA alternatives.
Another option to get health insurance after a layoff or furlough is the government website known as the National Healthcare Exchange. Federal employment law allows you 60 days to sign-up for alternate health insurance after losing your job. If you miss the window, you have to wait until annual open enrollment in November. If you can show that your income is below a certain amount you could qualify for a premium subsidy from the government. If your income is too low to even afford the exchange options you should consider contacting Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act, many (but not all) states elected to expand Medicaid to make it available to more low-income adults. If your state is one that is expanding Medicaid, this chart will show if you qualify based on your family size and income.
Medicaid is government-paid health insurance for lower income families and children, elderly, and Americans with disabilities. Some state programs cover all adults below a certain income level.
If your state did not participate in the Medicaid expansion there’s still a few things to consider. For example children in low-income homes should qualify for CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). You can complete an application in the Health Insurance Marketplace or by calling 1-800-318-2596. Be patient and persistent since there are a lot of people trying to get through or online right now.
4. SUPPLEMENTAL INSURANCE
There are other health insurance options that offer financial protection against certain health expenses. Supplemental insurance won’t pay the entire cost of a medical episode, but it can help. This kind of insurance is meant to help with your regular household expenses if you are sick or injured and can’t work. These so-called ‘fixed-benefit’ plans can also be purchased to cover specific things like: accidents, cancer, critical illness and even dental. They pay you a fixed amount in cash if you have a covered incident. There are many insurance companies writing fixed benefit policies like Aflac, Aetna, and Cigna just to name a few. Premiums for supplemental insurance are substantially less than health insurance because the coverage is so limited.
5. MEDICAL COST SHARING
For over 35 years this option has been available to the Christian community. But when the Affordable Care Act passed Medical Cost Sharing was expanded to offer access to people and businesses regardless of their faith. Just to be clear this is not health insurance. In many respects it’s easier and better than health insurance. This is a different way to pay for medical expenses. Instead of counting on an insurance company for coverage, medical cost sharing members rely on a healthy like-minded community to share their medical expenses.
These programs obviously use pooling principals similar to health insurance, but that’s where the similarities end. Sharing communities like Sedera facilitate the sharing of set monthly amounts by thousands of members. These pooled ‘community’ funds are then used to reimburse member’s eligible medical expenses once they exceed an initial unshared amount. After the member pays the unsharable part, the community steps-in to help with the rest. Medical cost sharing is notably less expensive than health insurance. Cost sharing members get free unlimited telemedicine visits and professional second opinions at no extra cost.
Companies like Scoop Health have medical cost sharing options for individuals and families who want an affordable alternative to health insurance or COBRA coverage, and they provide an alternative to the faith-based community medical cost sharing programs. Monthly rates are usually 30-50% below health insurance. There’s no open enrollment window: you can sign-up (or cancel) any time you like. Scoop Health is part of the Sedera community, so there’s no annual limit and no network restrictions like health insurance. This means you won’t have to give up your doctor. Members are able to choose any provider or hospital they like.
Millions of Americans trust Christian sharing plans like Liberty Healthshare, Christian Healthshares and others to help pay large their medical bills. Many of these faith-based cost-sharing platforms use caps to limit the annual amount of medical expenses a member can share with the community. However, some of the Christian sharing memberships preclude or phase-in members with pre-existing medical conditions. If you have pre-existing medical issues this could be a concern, so ask questions.
If you are healthy, you will likely simply want a medical cost sharing community that is responsive to your medical claims, diligent, and responsible with the community’s resources. What a welcomed relief to have someone in your corner to negotiate members’ large medical bills!
Learn more about why millions of Americans have elected to go with a medical cost sharing program to assist in covering medical expenses. Sign-up for a Scoop Health FREE webinar today!