Special Enrollment Periods and Others Ways to Get Insurance Right Now
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic (aka coronavirus), 13 states have worked with insurance companies and created special enrollment periods for the uninsured to find coverage.
If you do not have health insurance and are interested in signing up, below are the special enrollment time periods for each state:
- California: March 20 to June 30, 2020 (Covered California)
- Colorado: March 20 to April 30, 2020 (Connect for Health Colorado)
- Connecticut: March 19 to April 17, 2020 (Access Health CT)
- District of Columbia: March 24 to June 15, 2020 (DC Health Link)
- Idaho: This is a very limited enrollment for those who have recently lost employer-sponsored health insurance as a result of termination, layoff, or furlough due to COVID-19. (Your Health Idaho)
- Maryland: March 16 to June 15, 2020 (Maryland Health Connection)
- Massachusetts: March 11 to May 25, 2020 (Massachusetts Health Connector)
- Minnesota: March 23 to April 21, 2020 (MNSure)
- Nevada: March 17 to May 15, 2020 (Nevada Health Link)
- New York: March 17 to May 15, 2020 (New York State of Health)
- Rhode Island: March 17 to April 30, 2020 (HealthSource RI)
- Vermont: March 22 to May 15, 2020 (Vermont Health Connect)
- Washington: March 10 to May 8, 2020 (Washington Healthplanfinder)
If you’re one of the more than 3 million people who recently lost their job or health insurance, you may also qualify for health insurance via one of several outlets.
A federal rule, COBRA allows people who have lost their job, had their hours reduced, or have experienced certain other life events to keep their health insurance coverage for up to 18 months. For some this is an excellent option as it allows you to continue coverage without any breaks and access the same doctors and networks as before your life event. However, without an employer to pay some of your monthly premium your costs will go up. If you’re interested in this option, do the math before you commit. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a calculator that can help you to estimate what your premium may look like.
ACA Exchange “Qualifying Event”
While most people can only sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during the annual open enrollment period, if you experience a “qualifying event” such as losing your job you can go to Healthcare.gov, shop for, and enroll in a plan. Don’t wait too long to find coverage however, as you only have 60 days after you lose your job to apply. With this option you’ll have a choice of plans so you can find something in your preferred price range, but unlike with COBRA you may have to change doctors or networks under your new plan.
Finally, you may now qualify for Medicaid, a federal and state-run program that provides health insurance for people with low incomes. Coverage under Medicaid is either free or low-cost and enrollment is based on your monthly income, so even if you had a higher income prior to losing your job you may still qualify for the program. Most hospitals and many doctors take Medicaid coverage so it’s possible that with this option you may not need to switch providers.
And remember, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone wash their hands often and for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face and close contact with others, stay home and wear a face mask if you’re feeling sick, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Read more about their tips here.