Self-quarantines and stay-at-home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are having an impact on employment right now, and that may continue for some time. During this period of uncertainty, finding ways to pay bills or keep medical benefits are top concerns for many. Here are some tips from Janine Nowatzky, managing director of Inside Rx.
What is unemployment insurance and how do I sign up?
Unemployment insurance is a program between your state and the federal government that provides money when you’ve lost your job. With the federal government’s passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, you can receive an enhanced benefit. It authorizes:
- Self-employed and gig workers to receive benefits
- An extra $600 a week for up to six months
- An extra 13 weeks of benefits beyond what your state currently provides
Each state’s rules are different. Review your state’s unemployment insurance program to learn about how to apply for benefits. Or learn more by visiting www.usa.gov/unemployment.
How much money will I get?
It will vary by state. But remember, under the CARES Act, you will be able to get an additional $600 a week for up to six months. The program’s start date was set to Jan. 27. So, if you lost your job due to COVID-19-related reasons between the end of January and now, then you should be able to receive the additional benefit.
What about health insurance?
It’s scary to think about getting through this pandemic without health insurance. What benefits you’re able to keep all depends on who you work for. The first step is to ask your employer. They may allow you to continue your health coverage for a short period of absence.
If your employer is allowing you to keep your insurance, be sure to clarify if your missed premium payments will be:
- Covered partially or fully by your employer
- Deducted when you come back to work
- Have to be paid now to continue getting insurance
Your employer may also offer health care coverage through COBRA, but that can be very expensive.
A limited number of states have also opened enrollment to their own Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance exchanges. You may be able to sign up for a health insurance plan – even without a life-changing event, which is the usual exception to the standard open enrollment periods.
What about prescription medications?
It’s so important to keep taking your medications to stay as strong and healthy as possible. If you weren’t able to get health insurance with prescription benefits, there are prescription drug savings programs that can help.
While losing one’s primary source of income is stressful and scary, taking advantage of available benefits can help you and your family stay healthy.