SCC offers health insurance tips for laid-off Virginians
Virginia has seen a record number of unemployment claims due to COVID-19.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance wants to remind Virginians that there are health insurance options available if they’ve recently been laid off or lost health insurance benefits through their employer.
“Loss of a job doesn’t have to mean loss of health insurance coverage,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “In light of the rapidly evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) developments, it’s especially important to have health insurance now because most comprehensive health insurance plans, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, are providing increased benefits and coverages related to coronavirus testing and treatments that may be cost-prohibitive for individuals without health insurance.”
Coverage options include:
• Virginians can apply for an individual plan through the health insurance marketplace under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although the annual open enrollment period runs from Nov. 1 to Dec.15 , special enrollment periods (SEP) are available for people who may have recently lost their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage or have experienced other qualifying life events. You can apply for the SEP within 60 days before you know your coverage will end and within 60 days from the date you lost coverage. To learn more, visit healthcare.gov. Marketplace plans go into effect the first day of the month after a person’s job ends.
• Depending on your circumstances or income level, you may qualify for other assistance, such as Medicaid or Family Access to Medical Insurance Security. When applying for health insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace (healthcare.gov), it will provide you with information if you qualify. For more information concerning Virginia Medicaid programs, visit coverva.org or call 1-855-242-8282.
• People who have already lost a job may be able to extend their health insurance coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) for up to 18 months. Typically, employers with at least 20 full-time employees are required to offer COBRA coverage. If you opt in to coverage through COBRA, your health plan and health benefits remain the same, but you would be responsible for the entire cost of your coverage, plus an administrative fee. In most cases, you have 60 days to enroll upon receiving notice of eligibility for COBRA coverage. Once you opt in to COBRA coverage, you cannot switch to a plan through a health insurance marketplace until ACA open enrollment begins in November or until COBRA coverage ends in 18 months.
• Since losing your job is a qualifying event, you may also be able to get health insurance coverage through a spouse or other family member’s employer-sponsored insurance plan. Individuals younger than 26 may be able to join a parent’s employer-sponsored plan. You have 30 days from the time your previous employer stops paying for your insurance to enroll in your family member’s plan.
• Other options include short-term, limited duration health insurance plans, discount health plans and health care sharing ministries. White cautions that, while less expensive, these plans may not offer the same levels of coverage or consumer protections. (See this SCC document for more information.)
“Not all health plans are the same, and some are not insurance,” says White, who encourages Virginians to do their homework before enrolling in any health plan, considering factors such as health care provider networks, premiums, deductibles, annual coverage limits, copays, coinsurance, out-of-pocket limits and any exclusions (such as pre-existing conditions).
For more information, contact the Virginia Bureau of Insurance at 1-877-310-6560 or visit www.scc.virginia.gov/boi. You also can compare plans using the worksheet at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/pubs/hlthplan_compare.pdf.