Coronavirus: As unemployment rate climbs, many seek options for health insurance

More than 16 million people have filed for unemployment -- and a growing number of them are also losing their health coverage.
More than 16 million people have filed for unemployment -- and many of them are also losing their health insurance coverage.

"It's terrifying. We didn't pay rent this month," said Jimmy Dean Freeman.

Jimmy Dean and his wife Kate, who both lost their jobs, are also losing their health coverage. And the Freeman's have two young children.

"It's essential for us. We have kids, we're very healthy people, we're both distance runners, what if one of us got COVID-19, and all of a sudden we're without health insurance with something that could threaten your life? What situation are we leaving our children in," said Jimmy Dean.

According to the economic policy institute, some 420,000 Californians likely lost their employer provided health insurance when they lost their jobs.

COBRA continuation coverage is an option, but for the Freeman's, and many others, this can be expensive.

"We looked at the COBRA paperwork, which is $2,400 per month, and we're like, we just can't, we can't afford that."

It's why on March 20, Covered California opened a special 3-month enrollment period, allowing people to sign up for health coverage, now when they need it most. The free online service is an exchange of health insurance options where you can find a policy for every budget, even if you have no income.

"You can come to coveredca.com and put some basic information and find out right away whether or not you're eligible for insurance through Covered California or through low cost or no-cost Medi-Cal," said James Scullary.

So, who qualifies for Medi-Cal? It's based on income;

-a family of 4 earning less than $36,000 qualifies
-a family of two earning just over $23,000, also qualifies.
-and if you're 65 or older, disabled, under 21, or pregnant, you are also eligible for Medi-Cal coverage.

Covered California came through for the Freeman's. They managed to find coverage allowing them to keep their doctors.

"I was very happy to find Covered California, and honestly when I was putting the numbers in and trying to still get us on a PPO so we can still keep our doctors, I was kind of shocked that the difference, we could get it, it was still hard, but we could get and we could make it happen," said Kate.

Covered California's special enrollment period runs through June 30, however, depending on need, it may be extended.
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