Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic hit South Carolina in March, 268,624 unemployment filings have been submitted from lost jobs in restaurants, bars, manufacturing plants, dental offices and many other businesses that have closed. For some, this may mean they no longer have their employer-sponsored health insurance.
During these uncertain and difficult times, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, the only South Carolina-based health insurer with a long history of providing coverage in the state, and its subsidiary BlueChoice® HealthPlan of South Carolina, have responded to make sure those affected have options.
Denise Jefferson, a marketing director at BlueCross, answers some common questions you may have should you find yourself without health coverage during this time.
What are my options for health insurance?
- The Affordable Care Act provides for Special Enrollment Periods (SEP) that allow individuals who have had certain life events to enroll in health care insurance coverage. One of those qualifying events is losing a job.
- You may qualify for COBRA, a law that allows individuals to choose to continue group coverage for qualifying events — such as loss of a job — for a limited amount of time. It is a continuation of your group health benefits. Your employer will no longer make premium contributions, leaving the employee responsible for the full premium amount. COBRA can continue for 18 or 36 months, based on your qualifications.
- Another option is short-term health coverage. These plans can help fill gaps in your coverage during times of transition. They offer temporary health insurance to help pay unexpected health care costs while you’re not covered by a traditional health plan. Information on short-term plans can be found here.
- Workers from smaller companies may be eligible for state Continuation of Care coverage. This option is similar to COBRA and applies to group health insurance policies with fewer than 20 employees.
- For some, a loss of income may mean you are eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is a government program that provides coverage for families with lower income, qualified pregnant women and infants, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. You can find information about the BlueChoice® Medicaid options here.
“We want people to know there are a lot of options,” Jefferson says. “Even if you have no income, there may be a health care insurance option for you.”
Where do I get started?
You can start by calling BlueCross’ special toll-free phone number to speak with a licensed health insurance counselor. Jefferson says the agents at this number will help South Carolinians through the process to finding the best option for their circumstances.
There are agents available Monday – Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. These agents can answer questions about COBRA and enroll someone in individual, short-term health or Medicare plans. They can be reached by calling 833-255-7709.
You can also find information online here.
How can BlueCross help me?
Health insurance can be complicated. There are a lot of terms and rules that make it hard to understand what you need and what is best for you.
The counselors at the toll-free number understand the ins and outs of health insurance and can help those who don’t. They may start with a needs’ assessment, for example, to help you figure out exactly what kind of coverage is right for your family and your financial situation.
They will also help make sense of the coverage and give guidance on what you need to do to get your family covered.
What do I need to know?
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a deadline for Affordable Care Act plans. You have 60 days from loss of coverage to enroll in a new plan.
There will be documentation to prove that you qualify to enroll in the plan. You won’t have to worry about that until after you are enrolled, though. You can become enrolled in a new plan immediately.
“The biggest thing to know right now is that you have choices. We can help through the process and pick the best type of coverage for you,” Jefferson says. “We are here for you.”