How Do I Get Health Insurance if I've Lost My Job?
The COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation) Act means that displaced workers are provided the right to continue coverage under their employers' group plans after they change or lose jobs. COBRA coverage can continue for 18 months, but in order to take advantage of it, you must do so within 60 days of losing your job. COBRA will be more expensive than your health insurance was when you were on the job, because you will be paying out of pocket, versus your employer paying your premium. It is important to know that some employers with other health plans may not be required to provide COBRA continuation coverage so you should check with your employer to see if this is the case. It is also important to know that COBRA is not always available for workers of companies that go out of business. When a company shuts its doors and also terminates its health insurance plan, usually there is no COBRA coverage available.
Catastrophic Health Insurance
This type of health insurance is designed to cover emergency medical expenses. The regular cost is low but the deductibles can be high. These plans do not cover routine doctor's visits, maternity care or mental health care. The way to think about this type of insurance is that it is coverage for the worst case scenario, so that any other assets you have do not get wiped out in the case of a serious medical emergency. Persons with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease or diabetes are generally not eligible for this type of coverage. You should check with insurance companies (BlueCross/Blue Shield, United, etc.) to see if they offer this type of coverage; your employer's human resources/benefits office may also be able to direct you to these companies.
Short Term Medical Insurance
Short term medical insurance generally offers coverage between one and 12 months, and is often a good option for someone in between jobs or a child who no longer qualifies for their parents' health insurance. The cost of this coverage will depend on your age, other health related factors, and the deductible you select (often from $250 to $2,500). This is generally not a good option for persons with pre-existing medical conditions. For more information you should check with insurance companies or your employer's human resources/benefits office.
Medicaid is a program jointly funded by the states and the federal government, Medicaid pays for health and long-term care services for low-income Americans who generally lack access to private insurance. About half of all Medicaid enrollees are children. Low-income parents, seniors, and persons with disabilities are also covered. Medicare is a federal insurance program that covers Americans over 65 years old who are eligible for Social Security benefits, patients with end-stage renal disease, and persons who have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for two years. To apply for Medicaid or Medicare, you should talk to your local Department of Social Services or Health Department.
Free or Low Cost Clinics
Many communities also have free or low cost clinics for persons who qualify based on income level. Your local health department may also offer some services for free or low cost; there are state and national programs that allow for immunizations for children, some cancer screenings and HIV testing and treatment. Talk to your local health department about their services and local clinics. You can also visit www.ncfreeclinics.org or the Maya Angelou Website for a list of these clinics.
If you don't have health insurance of some kind, that doesn't mean you cannot seek services, it just means you have to pay as you go, out of pocket, for any fees you incur. It is important to remember that even though health insurance is expensive, it is often much more expensive to go without insurance should a serious health problem occur. There are options if you cannot afford insurance! Taking care of your health is essential, and though it is difficult when dealing with a job loss, not taking care of yourself can lead to more serious and more expensive health problems in the future.
Do you need further information or have questions or comments about this article? Please call toll-free 1-877-530-1824. Or, for more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, please visit our website: http://www.wfubmc.edu/MACHE.