If you’ve been laid off or furloughed from your job, you have a lot on your mind right now. And during the COVID-19 outbreak, healthcare is surely high on the list. Now more than ever, comprehensive health insurance can help protect your health and financial well-being and make you feel more secure.
According to the Blue Book of Health Care, a cost transparency website, a “fair price” for a 30-minute doctor’s visit is more than $200.1 in out-of-pocket costs.
Whether you’re a dislocated employee or a business owner looking for your furloughed employees, you have options for continuing health coverage. read on to find out the best solution for your needs.
You may have heard of Cobra, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, a federal law intended to provide families with an insurance safety net after a job loss. It’s available if you’re already enrolled in an employer-sponsored medical, dental, or vision plan, and your business has 20 or more employees. You generally have 60 days from when you lose your coverage to enroll in Cobra, although some plans, including Aetna, are extending this during the COVID-19 crisis.
cobra is a good option if you have savings or still have income to draw from. the average beneficiary pays $610 per month for individual coverage or $1,750 for family coverage.3 (your cost may be higher or lower). To lower your cost, your employer may subsidize your premiums for a period of time. Or, if you have an HSA, HRA, or IRA (that is, a health savings account, health reimbursement arrangement, or individual retirement account), you may be able to pay your cobra premiums with those funds.
To find out the cost charged to you, check your benefits information or contact the person who handles benefits for your employer. you can learn more about how cobra works here.
employers can learn about aetna’s cobra-related policy releases in response to covid-19 here (pdf download).
If your employer has gone bankrupt, you will not be offered cobra coverage. but there may be other more affordable options.
Medicaid is a type of public health insurance offered by state governments. It was designed to offer families and individuals free or low-cost health coverage when they need it. eligibility is based on current monthly income (after layoff) and stimulus payments do not count. If you don’t qualify because of your income, you can still get coverage for your children and any pregnant women in your household.
Medicaid offers a wide range of benefits, which vary by state, but often include:
- helps control chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes.
- Common prescription drugs for free or very low cost.
- mental health services such as counseling and substance abuse care.
- free transportation to and from your doctor visits.
- Talk to doctors by phone or video chat, without the hassles of travel and waiting rooms, through telemedicine.
- earn points to use on baby supplies like diapers, wipes and baby food.
- get coverage for routine dental and vision care.
- connect with community resources that can help with food or housing needs.
If you’re an aetna medicaid member, you can also enjoy these extras:
Medicaid enrollment is open year-round and you can join at any time. check your eligibility through your state medicaid office. Find out if Aetna Medicaid is available in your state here.
health insurance market
The health insurance marketplace on healthcare.gov offers subsidized coverage for low-income people. Most people who don’t qualify for Medicaid will qualify for coverage there. millions of people do not pay any monthly premium; those who paid an average of $87 a month in 2019.4 Remember that the deadline to get new coverage is usually 60 days after your old coverage ends.
If you’re 65 or older, you can get government-sponsored health coverage through Medicare. Medicare is divided into parts that provide different coverage options. “original medicare” covers hospitalization (part a) and medical fees (part b). prescription drug coverage is provided separately through part d.
You will have to pay a monthly premium for parts b and d, depending on your income. most people pay about $144 per month for part b5 and $30 per month for part d.6 You can apply anytime from 3 months before you turn 65 to 3 months after.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to familiarize yourself with Medicare deadlines and late fees. If you wait 8 months or more to apply for Medicare after losing your employer coverage, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty to get coverage later.
You can apply for original medicare (parts a and b) online, by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (tty: 1-800-325-0778), or in person at a u.s. social security administration office. if you decide to go in person, make an appointment first. get more information on the social security site.
another option is to buy an all-in-one medicare advantage plan (part c) through a private insurer. this will include medical and hospital coverage. it may also cover prescription drugs, dental, vision, fitness memberships, and other extras.
Medicare can be complicated. that’s why aetna offers a free program called medicare transition services. Licensed and trained agents can educate you on all of your health care options, help you avoid penalties, and determine if Medicare is the right choice for your needs. just call 1-888-675-0447 (tty: 711).
You can read more about the parts of Medicare and how to choose the right plan here.
join a family member’s plan
In the insurance world, losing your employer-sponsored health plan is considered a “qualifying life event.” That means a family member can add you to their health plan outside of regular enrollment season.
If you’re under 26, joining your parent’s plan may be your best option. People over the age of 26 and married or in a domestic partnership should ask about joining their partner’s plan. in either case, contact the plan holder’s human resources department for more information.
You may have heard of short term limited duration (stld) insurance. These policies, which are non-renewable, are designed for people experiencing a temporary gap in health coverage, such as dislocated workers. Short-term plans, which are more affordable than full coverage, seem like a good idea. However, the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on health care issues, warns consumers that such plans do not provide enough coverage.7
For example, short-term health plans exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. And, unlike comprehensive plans found on the health insurance market, short-term plans don’t have to cover preventive care, prescription drugs, mental health care, and maternity benefits.
If you find a short-term or other health plan that seems too good to be true, read the fine print. Also be aware of imposter websites selling cheap but inadequate coverage. When shopping for a health plan, you can generally trust websites that end in “.gov.”
you have options
As you can see, dislocated workers have options for some form of coverage if they know where to look. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, consider talking to a licensed insurance broker. These professionals, who represent multiple insurance companies, can search for a policy that meets your needs and help you sign up. the service is free you can find a local broker through an accountant or lawyer, or through the health insurance market.
aetna is proud to offer special benefits to its members during the covid-19 outbreak. These include extras like free prescription home delivery, $0 copay telemedicine visits for mental health counseling services, and dedicated care manager support.
aetna resources for living mental health services has also established crisis support lines that anyone can access during the covid-19 crisis. if you’re an aetna member, call 1-866-370-4842 (tty: 711). if you don’t have the resources to live on, you can still call 1-833-327-aetna ( 1-833-327-2386) (tty: 711).