Surging unemployment leaves many with few options when it comes to insurance

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With millions of Americans filing for unemployment, that means many will also become uninsured.

Companies are scrambling to figure out ways to continue paying for insurance amid layoffs, and people who become uninsured don’t have many options.

“As if it’s not already hard enough to obtain affordable insurance, this just makes it a really challenging time,” said Matt Benge, sales team leader for AssuredPartners.

Benge spends a good part of his days talking to companies about how to maintain insurance for employees.

Health insurance companies are changing the rules to encourage employers to continue coverage throughout temporary layoffs.

In some cases, they’re offering a 30-60 day lag in premium payments and waiving the requirement that employees must be actively working 30 hours a week to qualify for coverage.

“They are allowing some who are doing temporary layoffs and furloughs to continue paying for those employees insurance benefits. So if you have that opportunity, it’s great,” Benge said.

According to their websites, among other things, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City is covering the cost of COVID-19 testing and waiving out of pocket costs for tele-health care. Aetna is waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, and Humana is waiving all medical costs related to COVID-19.

Those benefits are great for people continuing health coverage, but for folks who are losing it because of layoffs or furloughs, there are only three options.

“The options are limited,” Benge said. “One is sighing up for COBRA. Two, they can go to healthcare.gov and try and find an individual plan. Three, if you’re lucky enough, they can go onto a spouse’s plan.”

Low-income adults without children in Kansas who can’t afford to pay for COBRA or ACA premiums will be uninsured.

United Community Services of Johnson County provided information about some hospitals that have charity programs like Health Partnership in Olathe, which can provide care for folks unable to pay, but that doesn’t include hospitalization.

Benge said the bleak outlook for people at risk of becoming uninsured is forcing companies to reevaluate every portion of their business. Where they can cut costs and operate more efficiently to avoid pushing their people out to fend for themselves.

“You know, they’ve been put in a very tough position to continue to operate,” Benge said. “So I think they’re just evaluating all pieces of their business while trying to kind of handle the adversity that’s been set in front of them.”

Things are changing quickly regarding insurance during the COVID-19 crisis, so the best way to navigate through this troubled time is to seek out a professional who can help find the best options for you and your family.

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