“If you lost your job and you don’t have any income currently, even if you were earning a lot, you currently can be eligible for the Medicaid program if you’re in a state that expanded Medicaid eligibility for low-income adults,” Pollitz said.
Medicaid is based on your current income, and unemployment checks aren’t counted — even the $600 bump in unemployment that was part of Congress’ recent stimulus bill, said Dr. Peter Ubel, a professor of business, public policy and medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
Most states don’t charge a premium for Medicaid, and benefits are comprehensive with no deductibles, Pollitz said.
“Medicaid is the most affordable option. Start there,” Pollitz said. “It’s not a welfare-based benefit anymore. It’s really a safety net for people when their income is low. When you get your job and your income back, you can let the Medicaid go.”
There are 14 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid to cover more low income people — Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
In those states, people’s next best option will be getting on the health plan of a spouse or parent, Pollitz said. The ACA allows people who’ve lost coverage to enroll in their spouse’s plan or, if they’re younger than 26, their parents’ plan.
“You only have 30 days and you won’t get a notice,” Pollitz said. You’ll need to proactively reach out to the human resources department at your family member’s work and let them know you want to enroll.
If those options aren’t available, your next most affordable move is to go to a marketplace and purchase health insurance coverage, Pollitz said.
Most states run their marketplaces through the federal HealthCare.gov, which allows a special personal enrollment period for people who’ve lost their coverage, Pollitz said.
“You have 60 days from the day you lost coverage to go to the marketplace,” Pollitz said. “You have to let them know you lost your coverage. You have to jump on this.”
Marketplace plans are subsidized for people who earn less than four times the poverty level, which is around $50,000 a year for a single person and around $105,000 for a family of four, Pollitz said.