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Obamacare May Help Many Laid-Off Workers Get Health Insurance

WEDNESDAY, April 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Millions of Americans in industries hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic could be eligible for financial help with health insurance, a new study says.

Many of the newly unemployed might not know they can get public insurance or subsidies for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces, according to an analysis published this month by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.

The study estimated that about 60% of the 24 million uninsured workers in the most vulnerable industries and their family members are eligible for Medicaid or Obamacare insurance subsidies — even if they’re getting unemployment benefits.

The more than 14 million people in this group include workers in retail, restaurant, hotel, entertainment, dry cleaning, home health, day care and transportation services, the researchers said.

Coverage varies in states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not, however.

Workers are more likely to be eligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in expansion states than in nonexpansion states if they get unemployment benefits (37% versus 14%).

The differences are even greater if they don’t get unemployment compensation (57% versus 20%).

“Many people who lose their health insurance will be eligible for subsidized coverage, but unfortunately, we will find that many will not,” said Kathy Hempstead, a senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The options available to those who lose their coverage will be much leaner in states that did not expand Medicaid,” Hempstead said in a foundation news release.

The researchers offered several policy ideas to increase the number of newly eligible unemployed Americans who will have insurance during the crisis.

They included a special open-enrollment period for Obamacare marketplace plans nationwide; increasing federal funds for Medicaid support; expanding Medicaid eligibility in 15 nonexpansion states; and more subsidization of marketplace coverage.

— Steven Reinberg

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SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, April 24, 2020

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