With about 1 in 3 Hawaii workers now unemployed, many have also lost their health insurance. Some options for getting replacement coverage come with a deadline.
For workers who cannot get covered through a spouse or parent, there are still a few avenues available for securing coverage.
Connie Liu with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii says the first move should be to apply for Med-QUEST, Hawaii’s Medicaid program.
"They have no copayments, no premiums, and it's usually through an HMO-type plan,” she says. Eligibility for the program is based on income.
More than 15,000 residents applied for the program in March and April. The state Department of Human Services, which administers Med-QUEST, said it has seen a 42% increase in applications compared to the same time last year.
For those who are not approved for Med-QUEST, there is still another option: Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act, as it is officially known, allows the uninsured to purchase health coverage through the online marketplace HealthCare.gov. Normally that can only be done during the end-of-year window known as Open Enrollment.
But qualifying events like getting married, having a child, or the loss of a job-based coverage open a 60-day special enrollment period. The countdown starts the day you lose your job. Liu says it’s critical to not miss that deadline.
Once that 60-day window passes, unless they have another qualifying event, they won’t be able to apply for Healthcare.gov insurance until November 1st.
She recommends applying for Med-QUEST immediately upon the loss of a job. In the event enrollment is denied, there will still be time to purchase coverage through the ACA. In some cases, ACA coverage can even be set up before the qualifying event, such as a severance period.
The Legal Aid Society runs a free telephone hot line to help with registration and other legal issues:
Legal Aid Phone Intake Service Hours
9:00-11:30 a.m. & 1:00-3:00 p.m.
1-800-499-4302 (Neighbor Islands)