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Staff Writer

Since health insurance often is tied to employment in the United States, many people who lost their jobs means they also may have lost their insurance.

Normally, it’s only possible to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — during open enrollment in November and December, but those who have lost their insurance may qualify for what’s known as a special enrollment period.

Findlay insurance agent Heidi Rupp said she had been receiving “a lot of calls” beginning several weeks ago. Some callers were saying their hours had been cut at their workplace. However, if you’ve just lost hours, and have not lost your health care coverage, you do not qualify for a special enrollment period. Similarly, if you lose your job but not your insurance — if you did not have insurance through your job — the job loss itself doesn’t qualify you.

Rupp said you’ll need to prove that you were on a group health insurance plan and lost it on a certain date.

Lee Hitchings, another Findlay insurance agent, said he’d need a loss of coverage letter from your previous employer. He’ll also need to know what you think your income is likely to be.

If you apply on healthcare.gov and your income is low enough to qualify you for Medicaid, it should automatically send you to apply for Medicaid online, Hitchings said.

COBRA — insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act — is also an option if your company had 20 or more employees. Under COBRA, you continue with the insurance from your old employer, but you are now paying the entire cost, rather than your employer paying some of it.

Rupp said people often say COBRA is too expensive. But “so is the ACA.” She said if you’ve already met your deductible, it may be best to stay on your existing plan through COBRA.

People earning 138 percent of the poverty level or less are eligible for Medicaid, while those who earn more than that, but less than 400 percent of the poverty level, are eligible for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act.

Rupp said some people may look for short-term plans, “but short-terms do not cover pre-existing conditions.” They do not cover maternity and don’t cover all the wellness benefits that an Affordable Care Act plan does. Rupp said people buy these plans because they’re cheaper, but they may not realize the plan doesn’t cover all these things. And, she said, short-term plans are not “created equal” — they differ from one to the next.

She said sometimes she’ll need to get creative. One family that had a sick child, but for whom the Affordable Care Act was too expensive, started looking at plans under the Affordable Care Act for their child only, but short-term plans for the parents.

Rupp said you have 60 days from the loss of your health care coverage to apply under the Affordable Care Act. If you wait longer than that, you are locked out until Nov. 1, when the open enrollment period for coverage for 2021 begins.

“There are some coverage options available, but each person’s situation is going to be unique,” said Robert Denhard, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Insurance, in an email.

He said some Ohioans may be able to join a spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan. And, those 26 or younger may qualify for coverage under a parent’s plan.

Denhard said any Ohioan with questions about their health insurance options can contact the Ohio Department of Insurance consumer services division through www.insurance.ohio.gov or consumer.complaint@insurance.ohio.gov.

Rupp said she isn’t getting a lot of questions on what insurance covers in the pandemic: “Just a lot of people losing jobs” and trying to figure out what to do.

“I feel for a lot of people,” Rupp said. “A lot of people going through a lot of things.”

A message left with Hancock County Job and Family Services, which handles Medicaid applications locally, was not returned.