In light of the COVID-19 crisis, something that may be on many of your minds is health insurance. Most of you likely have health insurance through your employer or through your spouse’s employee benefits. In this time of market downturn, layoffs have already begun. Amidst a sea of unease, the thought of losing health insurance benefits with a potential job loss can make one queasy. Now, during this global health crisis, people need health insurance coverage more than ever. Let’s take a look at how health insurance works and what happens if you experience a loss in coverage, regardless of the cause.

Basics of Health Insurance Payments

A few key terms you should know about health insurance are premiums, deductibles, co-insurance, and co-payments. Premiums are the monthly, quarterly, or annual fee that policyholders pay to the insurance company for coverage. Oftentimes, premiums are paid as employer-sponsored benefits, so this might not be an expense you even think much about when paying your bills or designing your monthly budget. The deductible is the amount you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket first before the health insurance company will step in and start paying your medical bills. You may have what’s called a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) which, you guessed it, has much higher deductibles than other plans but provides the benefit of low premiums. Next comes your co-insurance which is the amount of your medical bills you’ll need to pay after your deductible is met. Let’s say a doctor’s visit costs you $200, and your co-insurance is 20%. StethoscopeThus, you’ll be responsible for $40 of the total bill. Finally, co-payments or “co-pay” is probably the term you are most familiar with because it is often mentioned at the doctor’s offices and is a fixed fee you’ll pay during your doctor visit when services are rendered.

How To Get Health Insurance

The most popular way to get health insurance is through employer-provided benefits. Many employers will pay some or all of the employee premiums. Other ways to get health insurance is privately via HealthCare.gov or through medical cost-sharing programs in which members pay a monthly fee to share the health costs of other members. Currently, given the economic situation, the government is considering opening up a special enrollment period to anyone who does not have current coverage or who loses their coverage. Treatment of many illnesses, like coronavirus, can be very expensive, so it’s vital that you have coverage during this time whether it’s through your employer or if it’s on your own via the government plans or another cost-sharing plan. Don’t delay and get started today if you don’t have coverage.

What To Do If You Lose Your Health Insurance Coverage

As previously mentioned, most people have health insurance tied to their employment. Because of this, it makes a potential job loss scenario that much scarier. So, how can you make sure you are covered?

Don’t worry, you have options.

If you experience a job loss, see if your spouse’s employer offers spousal benefit coverage. You may be able to be added to that policy. You may also have access to what’s known as Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which is a program that allows employees to continue with the same health insurance plan coverage after a lay-off. This coverage applies to the employee, spouse, and dependents if included in the original medical plan coverage. The difference is that the employee assumes the full cost of premium payments without the employer’s help. Coverage can last from 18 to 36 months depending on the circumstances. While COBRA coverage can be costly, it can be crucial coverage that is needed while looking for another job. A huge benefit of COBRA is that it can be backdated meaning that if you incur medical bills during your election period you can retroactively enroll and have those bills covered as long as you pay the retroactive premiums.

Closing

I know personally, the thought of losing your health insurance coverage can be scary. When my husband and I moved back to Georgia from San Francisco, we were both without health insurance coverage for a month before he started his job. We were constantly on edge anytime we got in the car for fear of getting in an accident or were near anyone who sneezed for fear of getting the flu. We knew we could get access to our previous employer’s COBRA policy during this time if the need arose. Luckily, we are both fairly young and healthy and the need didn’t arise during this transition month, but knowing that we had options if needed gave us peace of mind. We hope that if you are in need of health insurance now that by knowing your options you too will be able to take action and be a bit more at peace during this uneasy time.

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