Many Florida Residents are in Need of New Health Coverage Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Record-setting numbers of people are filing for unemployment benefits as coronavirus closures continue to decimate businesses.

For many of these Americans, however, losing a job doesn’t just create worry about providing for their families. It also raises concerns about protecting their health during a pandemic.

About half of all Americans get their health insurance through their employer, so for many people, being newly unemployed brings with it uncertainty about their health coverage options.

It’s important for Floridians who have lost their jobs to know that the Affordable Care Act includes a provision that gives people 60 days to enroll in healthcare after a qualifying life event, such as job loss.

There are a variety of affordable health coverage options, including Medicaid and the federal Health Insurance Marketplace through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Each program has unique characteristics and requirements as outlined below:

  • Medicaid offers free or low-cost health insurance coverage for lower income residents and the unemployed:
    • In Florida, Medicaid coverage includes preventive care, hospital visits and medications for many low-income families, women who are pregnant, those with disabilities or chronic illnesses, and children.
    • Income qualifications depend on who is applying for coverage and how many people are in the household. The Florida Department of Children and Families website can help residents determine the kind of coverage they may be able to get. Note: CARES Act supplementary unemployment insurance benefits, which can increase unemployment benefits by $600 per week, do not impact eligibility for Medicaid programs.
    • Enrollment is offered year-round.
    • To enroll in Medicaid in Florida, visit myflorida.com/accessflorida.
  • Health Insurance Marketplace is for anyone who doesn’t receive employer-provided coverage, and it allows people to choose from multiple health insurance plans to find the coverage that is right for them.
    • Year-round enrollment is available through a special enrollment period (SEP) triggered by a qualifying life event. Once a person experiences a qualifying life event, such as job loss, they have 60 days to enroll.
    • Financial assistance is available for Marketplace coverage if a person’s expected 2020 income will be 100 percent-400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $12,490$49,960 for an individual and $25,750$103,000 for a family of four.
    • To be eligible for coverage, a person must live in the United States, be a U.S. citizen or national and can’t be incarcerated. Healthcare.gov has more details on eligibility.
    • To find out what qualifies for SEP and shop for ACA coverage, visit Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).

Both Medicaid and Marketplace options are often more affordable than COBRA, the health insurance program that allows people to continue their employer-provided coverage if they have lost their job, and it’s important to understand the differences. While COBRA maintains a person’s existing coverage, they will pay 100 percent of the cost plus an additional 2 percent in administrative costs. Subsidies to reduce costs are not available through COBRA, and coverage can last between 18 to 36 months, depending on the circumstances of job loss. However, it will eventually expire and a person may be required to find new coverage, either through employment, Medicaid, or the ACA Marketplace.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis are far reaching. It’s not only affecting people’s health, but also their employment and ability to access healthcare,” said Liz Miller, President and CEO of Sunshine Health. “At Sunshine Health, we want to support our communities in making informed decisions about their health coverage options, so they can access the care they need.”

For information about COVID-19, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

For questions about ACA Marketplace health insurance options, please visit Ambetter.SunshineHealth.com or call 1-877-687-1169 (Relay Florida 1-800-955-8770).

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