As mass layoffs continue to sweep America due to state-wide lockdowns, millions are losing more than just their job—many are left without the security of their employer-sponsored health insurance.
During a global pandemic, millions are desperately seeking other insurance options. States are taking measures to temporarily expand state-sponsored insurance options during the duration of the pandemic. However, many argue that these government efforts simply aren’t enough.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate in the U.S. has skyrocketed to 13%, a rate that hasn’t been matched since the Great Depression. Consequently, the Department of Labor reports that almost 17 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the mass layoffs began. These numbers are indicative of the massive economic impact of COVID-19 on millions across the U.S.
As the mass layoffs continue, millions are left without their employer-sponsored health insurance. If this is you, you’re not left without options. Here are three main avenues that can point you in the right direction of ensuring your healthcare coverage needs are met.
Most employers give the option of COBRA, which means that you can retain the same health insurance coverage from your previous job for an average of 18 months after your layoff. However, many employers will not contribute to the monthly premiums, which means that COBRA is almost always more expensive than your premiums while employed. If you can still afford your previous insurance under COBRA, then this is definitely a very good option.
Most employers give the option of COBRA, where you can retain the same health insurance coverage from your previous job for an average of 18 months.
There are also different plans through various insurance providers that have a variety of payment options with different levels of coverage. If you can’t afford your previous plan without your employer’s percentage of your premium payment, then most likely there is another plan that you can afford.
However, for those individuals who can no longer afford private health insurance, there are government-sponsored options, which have been expanded to assist those who have been severely affected by COVID-19.
As many as 37 states are expanding their Medicaid coverage eligibility. Medicaid is a government-sponsored health insurance that is free for those who qualify and only requires a small premium. Medicaid is typically reserved for individuals who are 138% below the Federal Poverty Level, which means you have to make less than $17,609 per year for an individual or less than $36,156 per year for a family of four to qualify. However, many states are expanding their Medicaid eligibility requirements, which means that you could qualify temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As many as 37 states are expanding their Medicaid coverage eligibility.
If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, many states are also expanding their eligibility for healthcare subsidies. The amount of subsidy that you could potentially qualify for varies from state to state, however, the standard rule of thumb is this: the less income you currently make and have made during this past year, the more subsidy you will likely qualify for. In order to qualify for a government subsidy, your income must fall within the bracket of earning a minimum of the national poverty level ($12,760 per year for an individual, $26,200 per year for a family of four) and less than 400% above of the national poverty level ($51,040 per year for an individual, $104,800 per year for a family of four). Note that these numbers and requirements will likely vary from state to state.
How Will Millions Losing Their Insurance Affect Healthcare?
The Coronavirus Stimulus Relief Bill, thankfully, is attempting to support the healthcare industry so that healthcare practitioners can take on more patients—even patients with Medicaid and state-sponsored insurance plans that many doctors are not in-network with. Typically, since Medicaid and state-sponsored coverage is highly subsidized, doctors often don’t get a large enough return for their treatment to financially justify being in-network with these subsidized plans.
The Coronavirus Stimulus Relief Bill is attempting to support the healthcare industry so that healthcare practitioners can take on more out-of-network patients.
However, through the Stimulus Relief Bill, the government hopes to incentivize and financially support healthcare professionals so that they can treat these patients without being concerned about the difference in financial return. The hope is to ensure quality treatment for all patients during this time without doctors having to take a major pay cut.
Is There an Argument for Permanent Subsidized Healthcare?
The growing issue of millions of Americans left without health insurance due to the COVID-19 outbreak has revived the argument for permanent subsidized healthcare, similar to Bernie Sanders’s proposals. As many Americans cope with the threat that COVID-19 presents to their health—and their healthcare bill—it’s understandable how many would favorably consider a standardized and centralized healthcare that provides healthcare for every individual.
However, this debate runs the danger of equating necessary measures during a state of emergency and imposing those same measures permanently.
However, this debate runs the danger of equating necessary measures during a state of emergency and imposing those same measures permanently. The cost of the Coronavirus Relief Bill alone to provide temporary relief to the unemployed and the healthcare industry was $2 trillion—that’s almost twice as much as the 2019 deficit spending. This signals the magnitude of the cost required to make subsidized healthcare standardized and permanent. It’s no wonder why Sanders himself admitted that the entire U.S. tax plan and federal budget would have to be revolutionized in order to accomplish such a task.
These are definitely challenging times for the American people, and the massive loss of jobs and health insurance justifies these questions concerning the state of our current healthcare system. However, though the idea of a standardized, comprehensive healthcare sounds appealing, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the cost alone of implementing such a system would require a fundamental change to our economy. As these debates continue, we hope that you will take advantage of these options to ensure that you have the healthcare and security to give you peace of mind during these uncertain times.