A MAG member’s suggestions to get health insurance

The following was written by Wellstar Health System physician and MAG member Steven Cohen, M.D., to highlight ways for people who don’t have health insurance or who have lost their health insurance as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak to obtain health insurance.

Normally, people can only sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or a family member’s employer provided health insurance during a certain time of the year (open enrollment). However, if you lose the insurance that was provided through your employer you have a certain amount of time to sign up for these. If you wait too long, you cannot take advantage of these options.

1.   People who are 65 and older can enroll in Medicare; they need to choose a Medicare D or Advantage plan to get drug coverage. They can enroll in Medicare at www.medicare.gov. They can also go to www.medicaredrugsavings.orgfor help choosing the Medicare plan that’s best or them.  

2.    Medicaid may be the best option for dependents who are under 18 if they meet the income restrictions. Some low-income adults, pregnant women, and people with disabilities may qualify. You can apply for Medicaid in Georgia at medicaid.georgia.gov. Click here to apply for Medicaid in other statesYou can also get information about Medicaid when you sign up online for an ACA plan.   

3.    Go to https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage/ to enroll in an ACA (“Obamacare”) plan. Normally this can only be done during open enrollment, but you can sign up for these plans up to 60 days after you lose your employer-sponsored health insurance. In addition, 10 states (Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, California and Washington) and Washington DC are permitting everyone who is uninsured to sign up for an ACA plan.

4.    People who lose their insurance can enroll in their spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan. People who are under 26 years old can enroll in their parent’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan. This this can normally only be done during open enrollment, but you can sign up for these plans up to 31 days after you lose your employer-sponsored health insurance. 

5.   COBRA is a federal law which lets you keep the coverage provided by your employer for up to 18 months, however this may not be affordable. You have 60 days to sign up for COBRA after you lose your health insurance. 

Note that the loss of a job/work-related health insurance qualifies as a “qualifying life event,” which means that someone who loses the health insurance coverage that’s provided through their employer has 60 days to pursue option #3 or 31 days for option #4 outside of the normal open enrollment period. The important date is the day that you lose your insurance coverage (e.g., if you lose your job on June 14 but the insurance coverages stops on July 1 the “life qualifying event date” is July 1.) If you wait longer than that, you will lose these options.

Note for medical practices: Your practice’s portal login page is often a patient’s first point of contact with your practice, so consider adding a “Click here for your options if you’ve lost your work-related health insurance” tab that links to a landing page that highlights the aforementioned information/options.