How to get health insurance during COVID-19 pandemic

The record-breaking number of Americans now without health insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic is alarming. It's the biggest loss in health insurance coverage that we have seen in our country's history. It is 40% higher than the previous record set during the recession from 2008 to 2009. The positive news is there are some choices for alternative coverage.

In the tri-state region, a Families USA study showed up to "13% of non-elderly residents are currently uninsured." It is a frightening situation for the entire country, especially during this ongoing pandemic.

"They're going to delay seeking care that puts them at risk and it puts their neighbors and friends and family members at risk," said Stan Dorn of Families USA.

Health care experts urge people who've lost insurance to research options.

"We estimate about 80% of people who have lost their jobs and their eligibility for that job-based plan would be eligible for other coverage," said Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Pollitz said the first place to look is Medicaid.

"It's really been changed since the Affordable Care Act," she said. "And we estimate probably 60% of people who lose their jobs and their job-based coverage, coverage would be eligible for Medicaid so start there."

Medicaid is a public plan and always open for enrollment.

The vast majority of children who lose coverage due to a parent's unemployment are eligible for Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"Medicaid looks at your current income," she said. "So even if you were working at a job where you earned $100,000 a year, Medicaid doesn't care what you used to earn, they care what your income is now. If you're on unemployment, Medicaid won't count that additional $600 a week that the federal government is supplementing benefits through July."

The next step is to see if you can buy coverage through the marketplace at Healthcare.gov.

"You have to have a qualifying event. Loss of your job-based coverage is a qualifying event but that starts a clock," she said.

You have 30 to 60 days to apply depending on your situation so do not wait.

Before you can even apply for coverage, you have to submit proof that you've been laid off and lost coverage so do that right away on healthcare.gov.

And the last option is COBRA but that will be prohibitively expensive for most people.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.