How to Navigate Health Insurance During Coronavirus
With the weather warming up, more people are getting out and resuming some regular activities. Even as restrictions loosen, it’s important to follow proper precautions to limit your exposure to the coronavirus.
If you or a loved one ends up getting sick with COVID-19, the priority is getting the necessary care. While some people only get a mild case similar to a cold, others get respiratory complications resulting in hospitalization and a higher level of care.
Resources from your current health insurance provider
Insurance providers offer resources for members to help them navigate the changing health care landscape. From advice on limiting exposure to the coronavirus to resources for getting treatment, you can get reliable information and health support to carry you and your family through this uncertain time.
Below are some resources you may be able to access through your health insurance provider.
Website or Mobile App
Many insurance providers such as Texas Health Aetna have dedicated websites with COVID-19 information for members. This can include drive-through testing locations for members, guidelines for protecting yourself and your family, information on navigating insurance costs related to coronavirus and more.
Since limiting contact is a good way to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many health professionals are offering telehealth appointments. You can talk to a physician about your concerns with certain health symptoms or COVID-19 symptoms.
Some health providers are offering patients access to a nurse hotline for COVID-19 concerns and symptoms. Others, such as Texas Health Aetna, offer daily guidance, updates and tips via text message based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What to do if you lose health coverage
With the unemployment rate at more than 14 percent, more people find themselves without health coverage. As this new reality sets in, it’s important to assess coverage alternatives and consider different options for getting health care.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 27 million people could potentially lose employer-sponsored insurance and become uninsured following the loss of a job. Because health care costs can add up, getting coverage should be a priority.
Here are options for getting insured and how to navigate the process:
Consider options within your family
The first place you should look for coverage options is within your family. The Affordable Care Act allows those younger than 26 to be covered under a parent’s insurance plan.
If you lost your coverage but your spouse still has an employer-sponsored plan, you may be able to enroll in their plan. Check with their health insurance provider on the requirements to add another person outside of the open enrollment period.
Look at COBRA options
When you lose health coverage through your job, you are entitled to continue receiving the same group health benefits through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
COBRA coverage will allow you to keep your doctors and the same level of benefits you had while covered by your employer. However, because you will be responsible for the entire plan cost, including the employer portion and administrative fees, this can be very expensive.
Look for paperwork in your work separation package or in the mail on what the next steps are for COBRA coverage and how much you can expect to pay.
Check Medicaid Eligibility
Even if you don’t think you will qualify for Medicaid coverage, it doesn’t hurt to check. You can get free or low-cost care for yourself and your family if you meet the eligibility requirements. The coverage can even be retroactive as long as you qualify.
Qualifying for Medicaid will depend on your income and family status. Since programs vary from state to state, the best place to start is with the Texas Health and Human Services. If you need information for other services such as SNAP (short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), check out YourTexasBenefits.com for more details.
See if you qualify for marketplace subsidies
Even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid coverage, you may still get affordable health insurance. Your next stop should be the Affordable Care Act marketplace to see if your lower income means you can get part or all of your monthly premiums covered through a subsidy.
Job loss is a qualifying event so you can apply for a special enrollment period and see if you can get a subsidy. Just make sure you fill out your application within 60 days of losing your job to meet the eligibility criteria.
The Bottom Line
This is a trying time for many people as they try to navigate the physical, emotional and social difficulties from the coronavirus pandemic. Reach out to your health plan to find out what resources are available to help and guide you and your family through this tough period.