Lost Your Job? Free Health Coverage Is Likely Available

Doctor discussing with couple during COVID-19.
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If you lost a job and were out of work in 2021, you are likely eligible for free or nearly free health insurance for the rest of the year, regardless of income.

The assistance, which is for anyone in a household where someone collected or was approved to collect at least one week of unemployment benefits at any point in 2021, helps to buy plans on government-run Affordable Care Act marketplaces, also known as Obamacare. Not only are zero-premium plans available, but those who enroll can also save money on out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and copays.

Enrollment for the program began July 1 and those who sign up before August 15 will save the most, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a statement last week. Plans are available on the federal Healthcare.gov exchange or on state-run websites for states that do not participate in the federal exchange.

The special coverage for those who collected unemployment is free in some states and in others is available for a small monthly fee. For example, plans in California cost as little as $1 a month. The assistance comes courtesy of the American Rescue Plan pandemic relief bill passed in March, which also broadly boosted Obamacare subsidies and covered COBRA premiums for people who lost employer-provided health insurance.

For those who collected unemployment in 2021, the government will treat their household income as being no more than 133% of the poverty level, making them eligible for healthcare plans with no premiums or very low ones. There are some cases where people might be disqualified from the assistance, such as if they can get affordable insurance through another family member’s employer.

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