As COVID-19 Affects Job Situations, Some South Carolina Residents Must Look for New Health Coverage
Health insurance options are available for people whose health coverage was affected by job loss
April 8, 2020 Columbia, SC – More than 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week – breaking a record for the U.S. that was set the previous week.
For many of these Americans, however, losing a job doesn’t just create worry about providing for their families. It also raises concerns about protecting their health during a pandemic. About half of all Americans get their health insurance through their employer, so for many people, being newly unemployed brings with it uncertainty about how to navigate their health coverage options.
It’s important for South Carolinians who have lost their jobs to know that the Affordable Care Act includes a provision that gives people 60 days to enroll in health care after a qualifying life event, such as job loss.
There are a variety of affordable health coverage options, including Medicaid and the Health Insurance Marketplace through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Each program has unique characteristics and requirements as outlined below:
• Medicaid offers free or low-cost health insurance coverage for lower income residents and the unemployed:
o In South Carolina, Medicaid coverage includes doctor visits, medications, home health care, durable medical equipment, dental and vision benefits for children.
o Certain criteria, including income, are considered in determining eligibility for South Carolina Medicaid. Note: CARES Act supplementary unemployment insurance benefits, which can increase unemployment benefits by $600 per week, do not impact eligibility for Medicaid programs.
o Enrollment is offered year-round, and healthcare services provided up to three months prior to enrollment can be covered retroactively.
o To enroll in Medicaid in South Carolina, visit apply.scdhhs.gov or call South Carolina Healthy Connections at 1-888-549-0820 (TTY: 1-888-842-3620).
• Health Insurance Marketplace is for anyone who doesn’t receive employer-provided coverage, and it allows people to choose from multiple health insurance plans to find the right coverage:
o Enrollment is available during a special enrollment period (SEP). Once a person experiences a qualifying life event such as job loss, they have 60 days to enroll.
o Financial assistance is available for Marketplace coverage if a person’s expected 2020 income will be 100%-400% of the federal poverty level, which is $12,490-$49,960 for an individual and $25,750-$103,000 for a family of four.
o To be eligible for coverage, a person must live in the United States, be a U.S. citizen or national, and can’t be incarcerated. Healthcare.gov has more details on eligibility.
o To find out what qualifies for SEP and shop for ACA coverage, visit Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).
Both Medicaid and Marketplace provide an alternative that’s often more affordable than COBRA, the health insurance program that allows people to continue their employer-provided coverage if they have lost their job, and it’s important to understand the differences. While COBRA maintains a person’s existing coverage, they will pay 100 percent of the cost plus an additional 2% in administrative costs. Subsidies to reduce costs are not available through COBRA, and coverage can last between 18 to 36 months, depending on the circumstances of job loss. However, it will eventually expire, and a person may be required to find new coverage, either through employment, Medicaid, or the ACA Marketplace.
“The impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis are far reaching. It’s not only affecting people’s health, but also their employment situation and ability to access healthcare,” said John McClellan, Plan President & CEO. “At Absolute Total Care, we want to support our communities in making informed decisions about their health coverage options, so they can access the care they need.”
Absolute Total Care is available to help people navigate health insurance options during this public health crisis. For information about COVID-19, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website. For any questions about health insurance coverage options, please visit Absolute Total Care’s website at www.absolutetotalcare.com or call 1-866-433-6041.
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About Absolute Total Care
Absolute Total Care® is a health maintenance organization that has been providing services in South Carolina since 2007. Absolute Total Care is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading multi-national healthcare enterprise offering core Medicaid, Medicare and specialty services. Information regarding Absolute Total Care is available at www.absolutetotalcare.com.