By Aimee Knight
About 1.6 million Texans who lost their jobs in March and April and with it their job-based insurance may yet qualify for coverage says Stacey Pogue of Every Texan, an independent social justice public policy organization.
“Because so many people rely on job-based insurance and we’ve lost so many jobs, it’s just a staggering number of people,” Pogue said. The good news is most will qualify for open or special enrollment at healthcare.gov.
In a "Texas Bullhorn" Facebook Live conversation with AARP Texas Director Tina Tran, Pogue -- of the group formerly known as the Center for Public Policy Priorities -- spoke about the kinds of resources available for Texans to regain lost health insurance coverage.
The first step for someone who has recently lost their job and health insurance is to visit healthcare.gov for insurance plans, she said.
Because the option to extend work-based insurance through COBRA is expensive, Pogue highly recommends healthcare.gov, as nine out of every ten Texans who sign up there receive financial help to make their insurance premiums more affordable. Texans have a 60-day window after they lose their job-based insurance to sign up.
Pogue recognizes that the process of navigating and applying for health insurance can be confusing “but the good news is there’s local help available statewide that’s free,” she said.
By clicking on "Find Local Health" on healthcare.gov, users can type in their zip code or city to receive a list of health insurance agents, navigators and certified application assisters, all trained to demystify the often complicated process.
In the midst of the pandemic, there are also a lot of people who may have lost income but weren’t previously insured through their job. Enrollment assisters are available in these instances to determine who qualifies for a special enrollment window, and to assist in signing up kids under the age of 19 for Medicaid and CHIP, among other things, Pogue said.
Unfortunately, “a lot of people are going to see the door is shut to them, and they’re locked out of coverage until open enrollment in the fall,” Pogue said, with coverage beginning in January 2021.
She describes this lack of access as a “real problem,” compounded by the fact that Texas is at a higher risk than most other states: experts are predicting about half of Texans who lose their job-based insurance will end up uninsured.
Pogue attributes this grim forecast to Texas lawmakers’ refusal to close the coverage gap or expand Medicaid. “We have this weird phenomenon where someone can be too poor to get help,” Pogue said. Adults who are in or near poverty in Texas lack affordable options.
State leaders have an opportunity to correct this gap, Pogue said, by accepting federal Medicaid expansion funding.
Until then, Every Texan has created a comprehensive document informing people about their coverage options and detailing the process of signing up for insurance.
This story is provided by AARP Texas. Visit the AARP Texas page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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