Your employer’s COBRA option may be too expensive, but the federal government has an affordable option available but you have to act quickly.

As job losses mount, here is a reminder that affordable health coverage is available, but they must act quickly

Workers who lost jobs due to COVID-19 qualify for a 60-day special enrollment period through HealthCare.gov

More than 36 million workers have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis -- including 232,187 people in Kansas and 508,440 people in Missouri who have filed new unemployment claims since mid-March. An estimated 715,000 people in both states will lose their employer-based health insurance by June.

In case you didn’t know, anyone who loses their employer-based coverage qualifies for a 60-day special enrollment period (SEP) through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

“If a person misses their chance to enroll, they may have to wait until Nov. 1 to sign up on Healthcare.gov for coverage beginning in 2021,” said Jim Torres, program manager for health insurance services at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center and CoverKC Co-chair.

Employees who have lost their job may be given the option to extend their employer-based coverage by enrolling in COBRA, but employers often don’t contribute to the plan’s cost, so the individual pays full price. This can make COBRA too expensive for most people, with an average monthly premium of about $640 for a single individual, and $1,840 a month for a family of four for a typical employer plan.

HealthCare.gov offers comprehensive and affordable coverage consumers can enroll in, often with financial assistance that reduces monthly costs.

Health insurance navigators and certified application counselors with the CoverKC Coalition want to remind consumers that enrolling through Healthcare.gov can help secure comprehensive and affordable coverage.

Financial assistance often makes HealthCare.gov plans significantly more affordable, which approximately 85 percent of Kansas and Missouri marketplace enrollees qualify for. After financial assistance, the average monthly premium on HealthCare.gov is $101 in Kansas and $85 in Missouri.  Healthcare.gov plans are guaranteed to offer comprehensive coverage, with no pre-existing condition exclusions or markups. They are also required to cover essential health benefits (such as prescription drugs, lab services and hospitalization). Testing and treatment of COVID-19 are considered essential health benefits and are covered by all HealthCare.gov plans. Testing is covered with no cost sharing.

Individuals who didn’t have insurance through their employer and are currently uninsured, may still be able to enroll in coverage if they experience a life event that qualifies them for an SEP, such as getting married or having a baby. To learn if you might qualify for a SEP, visit www.HealthCare.gov/screener .  Individuals who’ve lost their jobs or seen their incomes drop can also learn whether they qualify for free or low-cost comprehensive coverage through Medicaid.

Free, trained help is available for consumers who would like help navigating the health insurance landscape. Call United Way 211 or Kansas City area residents can visit www.CoverKC.org to schedule an appointment with an assister near you.

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