Many workers are at risk of being furloughed during COVID-19 — even if they’re not infected — the ongoing pandemic poses another worry: What happens to that employer-based health coverage when the employer closes the business?
Simply losing a job, even temporarily, is bad enough, and the queue for unemployment benefits can seem to stretch beyond the horizon. But by one estimate, 28 million Americans also could have lost their employer-based health insurance because of the pandemic — basically doubling the number of uninsured in this country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Ultimately, success at getting or maintaining health coverage may depend on a range of factors, starting with the generosity of your former (and, hopefully, future) employer.
So far, employers generally have been demonstrating “a great level of sensitivity” for their workers, says Yuletta Pringle, a human resources specialist with the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va. Her data shows that employers often agree to keep furloughed workers on the company health plan for up to three months.
Even then, arrangements have to be made for the employee to cover their part of the monthly cost — something which previously had been simply deducted from their pay.
The employer may help with that, or they may defer the cost until the worker is back on the payroll, Ms. Pringle said. But it’s still an expense on an individual’s already-strained budget.
Aside from those cases, laid-off workers have three primary options for health insurance when someone experiences a triggering life event such as job loss: COBRA, the Affordable Care Act marketplace or medical assistance.