If You Have Lost Medical Insurance, You’re Not Alone

If You Have Lost Medical Insurance, You’re Not Alone
BY Justine Nelson
Jun 10, 2022
Key Takeaways:
  • One in seven American adults lost health insurance during COVID.
  • You may be able to get coverage under COBRA or expanded Medicaid.
  • Get coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). health insurance is subsidized or free for those who meet income eligibility threasholds.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, more than one in seven adults became uninsured. So if you lost your medical insurance, you’re not alone. What should you do if you lose your workplace medical insurance? Is there help available for unemployed people with no medical insurance? And how can you protect yourself from medical debt when you’re unemployed?

Even as unemployment numbers fall, it’s not necessarily easy to find a job providing good medical coverage for you and your family. If you are an unemployed or uninsured American, you are probably concerned about your exposure to catastrophic healthcare costs.

Let’s take a look at what we know about uninsured Americans and how you might find and afford health insurance.

Uninsured workers by state

Workers who live in California, Texas, Florida, New York and North Carolina have been impacted the hardest, with a combined 46% of the uninsured increases. Most of the newly uninsured live in 10 states, accounting for 63% of those without medical insurance.

StateNumber Becoming Uninsured Between February and May 2020
New York298,000
North Carolina238,000

Source: National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA

As the numbers continue to increase, many people are left to figure out how to obtain health coverage on their own. Between cumbersome state and federal systems, it can be frustrating to try and understand what you need to do to get covered. To make matters worse, as of now, no federal COVID-19 legislation that’s been signed into law includes comprehensive health insurance.

States with the highest percentage of uninsured adults

Of the top 10 states that hold the highest percentage of adults who have lost health insurance, half of the states are located in the south. Not surprisingly, many of these states had high unemployment rates during the same time period. Texas experienced a 13% unemployment rate in May 2020 while Nevada skyrocketed to a 25.3% unemployment rate.

Uninsured Adults as of May 2020

Source: National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA

Jobless Americans still need healthcare coverage and with the number of uninsured Americans climbing, now is the time to understand your options to get covered again.

If you’re unemployed how do you get medical insurance?

You may know that programs like COBRA, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act marketplace are great options to find insurance once you become unemployed, but here is some more information you should be aware of as you work to get your family covered again.

If you were furloughed, not laid off

First, there may be a possibility you can still receive insurance from your employer. If you were furloughed and not laid off it might mean you still have coverage. A layoff means you are terminated either temporarily or permanently, whereas a furlough means you take temporary unpaid leave from work.

As a furloughed employee, you should also ask your employer how they are handling your health insurance premiums. Since you aren’t getting a paycheck right now, you probably won’t be paying your full share of health insurance, but you might have to pay those premiums back once you return to work.

Are you in a Medicaid expansion state?

Medicaid, the health insurance program provided to low-income Americans no matter their age, works differently state by state. For all states, you can qualify for Medicaid based on factors like income, disability, household size, and family status. In states that have expanded Medicaid coverage, you can qualify based on income alone.

Keep in mind, the CARES Act allows non-expansion states to cover COVID-19 related services for uninsured adults. Even if you live in a state that has not adopted the expansion, you can still receive coronavirus testing and avoid added medical debt as an uninsured adult. Here is a full list of states, showing which have and have not adopted the Medicaid expansion.

StateMedicaid Expansion Status
AlabamaNot adopted
FloridaNot adopted
GeorgiaNot adopted
KansasNot adopted
MississippiNot adopted
MissouriNot adopted
NebraskaAdopted, not implemented
New HampshireAdopted
New JerseyAdopted
New MexicoAdopted
New YorkAdopted
North CarolinaNot adopted
North DakotaAdopted
OklahomaAdopted, not implemented
Rhode IslandAdopted
South CarolinaNot adopted
South DakotaNot adopted
TennesseeNot adopted
TexasNot adopted
Washington D.C.Adopted
West VirginiaAdopted
WisconsinNot adopted
WyomingNot adopted

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Use a healthcare navigator

If you aren’t furloughed or want to use something else than Medicaid, you can shop for your own health insurance. Even though navigating the health insurance system can be daunting, you can actually get a little advice in figuring out how to enroll by enlisting the help of a healthcare navigator.

A healthcare navigator helps you understand the healthcare system, including different types of insurance plans, benefits, and healthcare policies through the Affordable Care Act marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Typically, healthcare navigators are experienced healthcare experts who can help you understand different plans and which ones you could benefit from the most. Usually, their services are free for consumers. Once you are in the system as a patient, a navigator can also help you understand payments and billing.

Will I owe more on my taxes if I don’t have health insurance?

In years past, if you could afford health insurance but opted out of purchasing it, you may have paid a Shared Responsibility Payment when you filed your federal taxes. For the 2019 plan year and beyond, the Shared Responsibility Payment no longer applies at the federal level.

This is good news; however, each state has their own set of rules and some still have a health insurance mandate in place. The mandate could require you to have health insurance or pay a fee on your state taxes if you aren’t covered. These states have individual mandates:

  • Massachusetts

  • New Jersey

  • California

  • Vermont

  • Rhode Island

  • District of Columbia

Don’t overlook your financial health

If you’re dealing with an unexpected event like unemployment or lost medical insurance, you don’t have to go through it alone. The Freedom Debt Relief How to Manage Debt guide will walk you through your options on how to manage all types of debt, including medical debt. Start finding a solution by downloading the free guide right now.

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