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Healthwatch 16: Employer health benefits

Geisinger offers some advice to those losing health care insurance due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people in the area and across the state are losing employment due to COVID-19. And losing employment means you could also lose your health insurance.

For those who recently lost their employer health benefits, Geisinger Health System offers a friendly reminder to make other plans now. There are coverage options available through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, or CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program.

"Because of the Affordable Care Act, they have a 60-day period to pick up individual health insurance, if they qualify for a special enrollment period like a life-changing event. So the individuals who lost jobs on March 31 that window closing on May 31 to get coverage, or until their employment starts again," explained John Columbo of Geisinger Health Plan.

One question some have is, will they be put into different categories based on income or based on need?

"In most cases, especially if you qualify for the tax credit to help pay for the insurance, the kids will be sent to CHIP. PA CHIP will cover a variety of income households for children under age 19. If income is very low, they may be shifted to Medicaid," Columbo said. "Pick up the phone, call your insurance company. Call us! We're trained to go over this stuff with you. We can help you see that affordable options are out there. You can look at plans yourself, at Healthcare.gov, to see what you're eligible for.

What are the risks of not being covered at all?

"You run the risk of having to pay full cost for your medical bills if you get sick, and now's not the time to be rolling the dice with that," Columbo advised.

All of this can be confusing, which is why it's recommended you call someone to walk through options and pricing if you're about to lose your employer health benefits.

Financial assistance may be available to you to help reduce monthly payments.

If you wish to speak to someone with Geisinger Health Plan, you can call 855-923-1188 or got to geisingermarketplace.com.