Liz McLemore was laid off from her digital marketing job in early March, and her health insurance coverage disappeared along with it.
"I've always been a saver, so I wasn't as concerned about the monthly money coming in," says McLemore, who's 42 and lives in Inglewood, Calif. "But I really was concerned about the [health] insurance."
Like millions of others, she has always had health insurance coverage through her job, so she never had to think about it. Now, she suddenly had to figure out how to find coverage in the middle of a pandemic. Like most people who lost jobs, she had a few options: Medicaid, COBRA and the insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act. There was also a deadline — most have 60 days from when they lose coverage to enroll in a new plan.
McLemore opted to enroll in a plan from Covered California, her state's ACA insurance exchange. It wasn't easy — she had to call the county at one point, talk to the insurance company and navigate a difficult application.
The toughest part was computing an annual income for her ACA insurance application. That calculation would have to incorporate earnings from the job she had lost, along with the unemployment that she was collecting from the state, and also $600 a week from the federal government's enhanced relief for jobs lost during the pandemic.
McLemore says it took weeks to enroll. But she was determined to get health coverage — not just "because we're in the middle of a pandemic" but also because she wanted to be able to afford hospital care in case she got into an accident or got injured, like falling down the stairs, while doing daily activities. "You just got to fight through," she says.
In the end, she got a bronze plan on the exchange. It cost her $340 a month — a lot higher than the $60 she paid for her job-based plan. "My prescription cost is a little bit higher, my copay [for a doctor's] visit is actually like three times as high, the deductible is different," she says. "So it's not quite the same thing, for more money — but it's better than nothing."
She says the extra $600 a week helps with that additional expense for now, but that federal payment will stop at the end of July when the provision ends.