Well, we’re throwing out the old schedule and I am just trying to get episodes out as quickly as possible to answer your questions about finances in these times.
Question #1 (at time stamp 2:43)
I have a question… I have insurance thru work, and I think I’m going to have to go on unemployment like half of the world right now. What happens with insurance? If he has already paid it for April am I covered? And then what would I do for may assuming I am still off? I have never used unemployment or not had health insurance they work so I don’t know how any of it works.
Three Health Insurance Options
Option #1 COBRA or State Continuation
You can choose to pay COBRA to keep your same plan, which is more expensive than the exchange insurance usually but it would mean that if you’ve already hit your deductible or out of pocket max, you get to keep the same plan.
This can be a good option if you’re only temporarily laid off and expect to go back within 1-2 months and you can afford it, because it is a pain in the ass to switch insurance a bunch. COBRA is also retroactive, so if you only have a short gap and expect to go back to work, you can just not pay and then pay if you do end up getting hospitalized and needing care.
If you are someone who works for an employer smaller than 20 people, they have to offer you what is called “state continuation” which is where you pay them the full premium directly, but they keep you on the insurance for up to 1 year.
Option #2: Medicaid
If your income on unemployment (not counting the extra $600 a week, which does not count towards it) is low enough to qualify for Medicaid, and your state has expanded medicaid (22 states do not), you then you can get medicaid, which is free or extremely low-cost. This is a great option if you have access to it.
Option #3: Healthcare.gov
The most common option: go onto the state exchanges, and find a plan you can afford with the subsidy. Put in your new unemployment income as your income for subsidy (without that $600 extra). You can find your state exchange by going to healthcare.gov. DO NOT worry about “open enrollment” being over – losing coverage through work is a “life event change” that will qualify you for a special enrollment period.
You will be enrolled on the 1st of the month following your application, which will usually mean you don’t have a gap in coverage. Right now, I’d recommend a lower deductible plan (“silver” or “gold”) simply because the chance of requiring medical is higher for everyone right now, and paying an extra $100-$200 a month is a lot better than owing a $8,000 deductible if you are hospitalized.
Question #2 (at time stamp 13:49)
I’m a relatively new listener to Oh My Dollar, and I have loved spending some of my self-isolation free time backtracking through your old podcast episodes and listening to how compassionate you are when it comes to financial struggles. I’ve recently found out that I’m eligible for a stimulus check from the IRS (among many other Americans!) and I have no idea what that means. Is there a catch? Will I need to pay the money back in next year’s taxes?
I’m one of the lucky people who has a steady job through this pandemic, so I don’t need the money for bills. I’ve seen some sources recommending we spend the money on products or services in order to stimulate the stock market, and I’ve seen other sources saying we should add it to our emergency funds or pay down debt. The only debt I have is low-interest student loans, so I’m not sure how to prioritize. What are your thoughts on how to use this windfall?
Sending positive vibes from Massachusetts! You’re making a difference!
Send me your questions!
Many have questions about how personal finance is rapidly changing in these unprecedented times – it seems like many of the rules are now suspended. So I’ll be answering whatever your questions are about changes to universal credit, unemployment, student loans, health insurance – and if you ask, I will explain what’s going on with the stock and bond markets.
So, please write in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @anomalily and I’ll try to answer every single question I get in a a few episodes over the next week. I’d also love to just hear just little audio updates about how you’re doing in the world. You can leave a voicemail in the US at (503) 877-4338 or you can email us a voice memo to email@example.com
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