Health Insurance

There’s good news and bad news on the insurance front. The good news is that because so many people are staying home and not driving, most auto insurers are giving rebates to their customers – check with your auto insurance company. The bad news is that this is no time to go without health insurance, and many Floridians have none.

If you lost your health insurance due to the coronavirus crisis – either because you lost a job that included health insurance benefits or your freelance or gig work dropped off so much that you can’t pay the premiums on your individual policy – you may have options.

COBRA allows workers who are laid off by large employers to pay for continued health insurance coverage, but it can be prohibitively expensive. If you think you need health insurance for only a short period of time – for example, if you’ll be eligible for Medicare soon – COBRA might be your best bet.

In addition, being laid off qualifies as a “life-changing event” for most insurers, which means you might be able to get added to a spouse’s or partner’s insurance outside of the normal open enrollment period. This includes obtaining insurance through the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

About a dozen states have reopened their health care marketplaces for a special enrollment period because of the COVID-19 crisis. This removes the need for applicants to provide proof of lost coverage, and it also allows people to upgrade the policies they already have. Florida did not set up its own exchange, as many other states did, and Floridians buy their ACA insurance through the federal government-run marketplace exchange at healthcare.gov. The Trump Administration announced April 1 that it would not reopen the federal exchange for a special COVID-19 enrollment period.

In addition, some health insurance companies have made changes, including waiving copays and out-of-pocket costs for testing and treatment. Many insurers have also made it easier to get telehealth appointments via Skype or FaceTime – sometimes with no copays – and have created programs to help people deal with the stress associated with the crisis.

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