The potential loss of health insurance is just one of the challenges arising out of the spread of COVID-19. But it’s one that can have an impact on multiple areas of a person’s life: physical, financial and emotional. With 40 million Americans having filed for unemployment benefits, as a result of the pandemic, there has been a corresponding spike in the numbers of those facing a potential health insurance crisis.
Hospitals and other providers that have treated COVID-19 patients should be aware that many of these patients may be eligible for federal benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
COBRA, enacted in 1985, requires employers to let an employee keep his or her current health insurance plan for up to 18 months after a change in job status. COBRA keeps employees insured in the wake of a job loss or voluntary departure, reduction in hours, furlough or similar event.
Private employers with at least 20 workers and an active health plan are required to make COBRA available. To maintain one’s insurance through COBRA, the employee must pay the entire insurance premium, including the portion previously paid by the employer. While this can be expensive, it can be cheaper than being uninsured for those without other options, such as getting on a spouse’s plan or finding one through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.