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Has COVID-19 Put Your Insurance Coverage in Limbo? Here Are Some Options

Published July 28, 2020

Follow our Medicare Coronavirus News page for related information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on Medicare beneficiaries.

The unemployment rate in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic has crested near 15%. One demographic that especially feels the blow to the economy has been adults age 65 and over, for whom the unemployment rate is slightly higher than the national average and is the second highest rate among all age brackets.1

With so many seniors losing their jobs, many have also lost something else vital: their health insurance. 

Below we’ll address some common situations that are playing out among older adults in 2020, including ways that older adults may be able to find new health insurance coverage.

“I lost my job because of COVID-19, and I lost my employer health insurance as a result.”

If you lost your employer-provided health insurance and otherwise qualify for Medicare, you will most likely be granted an 8-month Special Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare.

Your Special Enrollment Period will most likely begin the month after losing your coverage. You will not face any late enrollment penalties for signing up at this time. 

“I enrolled in Medicare after losing my job, but now I anticipate returning to the workforce.”

Let’s say you lost your job (and the health insurance that came with it), so you took advantage of your Special Enrollment Period to enroll in Medicare. However, you have since decided to return to the workforce.

Here are some of your options:

  1. There is no need to disenroll from Medicare Part A if you are not paying any premiums for it (most people don’t). If your new employer has 20 or more employees and a group health insurance plan, that plan will serve as your primary insurance, and Medicare will act as the secondary payer. It would therefore be beneficial to remain enrolled in Part A.

  2. If your new employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will typically serve as the primary payer and the group plan will act as your secondary insurance (in most cases).

  3. If you would like to disenroll from Part B to avoid paying the monthly premium, you may be able to do so. As long as you are disenrolling from Part B for the reason of signing up for employer coverage, you will not face any late enrollment penalties should you one day return to Part B (as long as you enroll during the 8-month period after your employer coverage ends).

For more information and answers to your specific questions, you can reach out to your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

“I lost my job and joined my spouse’s health insurance as a dependent, but I’d like to switch to Medicare.”

You may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare if your spouse is still working and you are covered under a group insurance plan that is associated with your spouse’s employer. 

“I lost my employer health insurance, but I am not yet 65.”

If you are under age 65 and do not qualify for Medicare because of a disability, you will likely have to wait until you are 65 years old to enroll.

Until then, you may be able to bridge the insurance coverage gap by:

  • Enrolling in COBRA, which allows you to pay the premiums for your former group coverage and remain enrolled for up to 36 months
  • Enrolling in an individual health insurance plan through the open marketplace
  • Joining your spouse’s employer insurance plan

Asking for Medicare help during coronavirus

It never hurts to reach out for help.

For questions about Original Medicare, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

You can also learn more about Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans by calling to speak with a licensed insurance agent or by comparing plans online for free, with no obligation to enroll.

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Or call TTY Users: 711 to speak with a licensed insurance agent. We accept calls 24/7!

 

1 Cubanski J, et al. (May 13, 2020). Older Adults Are Hit Hard by COVID-19 -- and Also Losing Jobs. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-policy-watch/older-adults-are-hit-hard-by-covid-19-and-also-losing-jobs.