MaineStream Finance

Article Title: Loss of Employment and Health Insurance – What do I do Now?

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I once did consulting for a German company and my contact was completely baffled why I insisted on purchasing temporary health evacuation insurance when working in Haiti – it was the sheer terror of knowing a health evac can cost $100,000+ one-way.  Health costs are terrifying for all Americans – we’re all one car crash or cancer diagnosis from financial hardship, even for those of us who have saved for many years and have decent health coverage.   I saw this first-hand when working with community health centers for many years across the US.  We at MaineStream constantly see health related debt in collections on credit reports, and health costs are the #1 reason for bankruptcy in the US.  Right now thousands of Americans and Mainers could potentially lose their health insurance families in the coming months not just for them but their entire family if they are laid-off. 

There is hope – below are some options and resources to contact if your clients risk losing health coverage during this tough time when we all need health insurance most.  Also, the Governor has ordered that MaineCare will cover all COVID-19 testing (if other plans cannot) regardless of status of the person. Right now, the Maine Equal Justice Program is suggesting you check if you are eligible for MaineCare if you have lost your job – the criteria have been relaxed significantly.

  • CoverMe.gov: The Governor and State of Maine just launched CoverME.gov (or 800-965-7476) to help Mainers find the best option for them through MaineCare/Medicaid, ACA Health Exchange, and others.
  • US ACA Marketplace Health Insurance Coverage at Healthcare.gov for those without coverage with their employer.  A loss of unemployment is an eligible event to enroll outside of the normal period.  Anthem Blue, Harvard Pilgrim, and Community Health Options all provide plans under ACA. 
  • COBRA: Laid-off workers can also go to the COBRA Continuation Coverage website to see if they are eligible to continue coverage from their former employer’s plan for up to 9 months but you will have to pay most of the cost yourself, including the employer’s portion. You might be able to negoitate that portion with your severance. Your employer should offer this to you in most involuntary departure cases. 
  • There are organizations locally out there who can help you figure this out:  
    • Penquis has a Healthcare Navigator, Theresa Cucinotti. Visit the Penquis Healthcare Navigator page or call 207-973-3500.
    • Most Maine Community Health Centers (CHCs), like Penobscot Community Health Center (PCHC,) have Health Navigators, particularly to help with ACA coverage. Health centers also provide reduced price care based on an income-based sliding scale if you are uninsured (I.e. you don’t have to go to the emergency room for non-emergency care).  Most hospitals will also provide healthcare navigators if you ask.

-Chris Linder

Originally published May 18, 2020

To find out more about Personal Finance issues during COVID-19, go here.

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