For Those Who Lost Jobs Due to COVID-19, Time Is Running Out for ACA Enrollment
Lloyd Doggett Touts Benefits of the Affordable Care Act
As the Austin metro area prepares for as much as 25% unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Central Texans face the threat of losing not just their jobs but their employer-provided health insurance. Last week, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, offered such folks a glimmer of good news. "There's not much good that comes with losing a job, something that is troubling millions of Texas families," Doggett said at a May 7 press conference. "But there is one opportunity that losing a job creates" – access to insurance under the Affordable Care Act, which allows the newly unemployed 60 days to enroll from the point of job loss. For those whose jobs were affected in March, that window is soon closing.
Doggett was joined by representatives from Foundation Communities, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, and the Center for Public Policy Priorities. FC's Kori Hattemer said the nonprofit's enrollment specialists stand ready to help. "We know that health insurance is important for physical and financial well-being, but it's also complicated, and that enrollment can be stressful. So we're here to help navigate that process, make it easier," she said. (These services are free; learn more at InsureCentralTexas.org or 512/381-4520.)
HAAM's Rachel Blair urged the low-income working musicians who obtain access to affordable health care through the nonprofit to consider getting ACA insurance during the annual open enrollment period in November if they're not eligible for special enrollment now. "It would be an incredible comfort to know that if you do get sick, you won't also be met with catastrophic financial obstacles and barriers," she said.
CPPP's health policy expert Anne Dunkelberg said those whose income has decreased significantly may now qualify for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, for which enrollment is always open. She also noted that "nine out of 10 people [in Texas] who use the [ACA] marketplace get a subsidy to help them reduce their premiums and, for many of them, also their copayments and deductibles."