Photo by Ethan Alonzo
As the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus spreads worldwide, millions of Americans are put out of work and left with no health care insurance leaving them more vulnerable to the Coronavirus.
Although there are various types of independent agencies and other government assistance programs that individuals can apply for, issues arise for those who were not covered before the quarantine lockdown, which state and local governments began enforcing in mid-March. Citizens who have been laid off due to the outbreak now face the struggle of being able to afford and apply for any type of assistance during the outbreak.
According to Kaiser Family Foundation reports the largest categories of uninsured workers are occupying minimum wage jobs. These jobs include drivers, cashiers, restaurant servers and cooks, hotel workers, and retail salespersons.
These types of service occupations involve regular contact with the public, making it more likely that uninsured workers will be exposed to people with COVID-19. Conversely, uninsured workers who contract COVID-19 will be more likely to expose the public to infection, CNN reports.
The result of mass unemployment rates traumatically affects the lives of those who are both unemployed and uninsured not knowing what to do moving forward to prevent getting infected with the virus.
Those who are now uninsured and unemployed might actually help them qualify for taxpayer-funded medical treatment through Medicaid.
The most devastating fear for many of the uninsured would be for them personally or a family member to be admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 and then have to suffer afterward from detrimental medical bills.
Naomi Velasquez, self-employed and struggling to find health insurance knows what this fear feels like especially during a time of a pandemic.
“It terrifies me to even think about that my family and I are under this circumstance during such a vulnerable time,” Velasquez said in an interview. “The thought of sending my three-year-old to the hospital by himself is already devastating enough but in addition to outstanding medical bills afterward would leave us unable to ever financially recover.”
The United States has various options to get covered for the 27 million Americans who were uninsured before the Coronavirus outbreak. Although it may not be the easiest process to check qualification statuses per state, Medicaid is largely an insurance resource where most will qualify. The rules for eligibility (including the income cut-off) vary by state.
Benefits.gov states, “In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must be a resident of the state of California, in need of health care/insurance assistance, and whose financial situation would be characterized as low income or very low income. You must also be a U.S. national, citizen, or have satisfactory immigration status. To qualify for this benefit, you must be over the age of 64, be pregnant or have a child 18 or under, be blind or disabled, or have a child, parent, or spouse in your household who is blind or disabled.
For those who do not qualify for their state Medicaid, an alternative option is to look into state insurance exchanges that were set up under the Affordable Cares Act (ACA). In California that exchange is Covered by the state.
The Trump administration has confirmed they will not extend enrollment periods through the federal insurance exchange. This will force people to apply for short-term health insurance if they qualify through an outside agency called COBRA.
“They can extend their employer plan for up to 18 months through COBRA, but that’s an especially pricey option,” according to Politico News.
In this case, individuals will have to research insurance marketplaces that are provided within their state because many have extended that special enrollment period due to the coronavirus outbreak. People must be aware that with mass amounts of people accessing these websites and call lines, wait times to speak to representatives can be lengthy.
“More than 4 million people who are uninsured would qualify for a subsidized ACA health plan that would cost them nothing in monthly insurance premiums,” according to Kaiser.
During a frightening time like this pandemic, the stresses of losing a job and healthcare insurance especially those with children can be overwhelming, but with research, people have some options. Healthcare insurances understand they are in demand and will hopefully work with individuals to get them the best benefits suited for them and their families.