There is no question that your access to health care improves when you have quality health insurance. The need for access to quality health care has never been more apparent than it is now, in the middle of a global pandemic. While many people have lost health insurance coverage that was provided through their employer, there is some relief: Uninsured Mainers, including people who have recently lost job-based health insurance, have more coverage options than ever.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute estimate that between 72,000 and 131,000 Mainers may lose their employer-sponsored health insurance because they’ve been laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Nationally, it’s estimated more than 25 percent of those losing coverage are children who were covered through their parents’ employer-sponsored insurance. That means that potentially thousands of Maine children will be left without health insurance coverage, right when they need it the most.

If you are uninsured right now, whether because your job was affected by the pandemic or for another reason, options are available that provide comprehensive coverage – through the Affordable Care Act’s private marketplace coverage and through expanded MaineCare, which was approved by Maine voters in 2017. There are also a variety of resources to help you navigate and understand your options and to help with applying and enrolling in coverage.

Last year, I sponsored a bill, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mills, to support Maine’s Health Insurance Consumer Assistance Program. This program provides statewide, confidential, toll-free access to certified application counselors who can help uninsured Mainers sort through their health coverage options and provide application and enrollment assistance and help link people to other safety net programs. For example, children living in a family of four, with a household income of about $3,500 a month, can qualify for comprehensive health coverage through MaineCare. Parents in families at that same income level can qualify for subsidized coverage and cost sharing, including deductibles and copayments, through the ACA’s federal marketplace.

There’s no question that sorting through these health coverage options can be confusing. Many resources are available to help Maine people understand their coverage options, especially as individual economic situations are changing in light of COVID-19, including the following resources:

• Consumers for Affordable Health Care is designated as Maine’s Health Insurance Consumer Assistance Program by the Superintendent of the Bureau of Insurance and the Attorney General. The nonprofit offers toll-free, confidential information statewide to Mainers who need help sorting through their coverage options or who need assistance applying for and enrolling in coverage. People who need help understanding their health coverage options should contact CAHC at 1-800-965-7476.

CoverME.gov offers information about MaineCare.

HealthCare.gov offers information on special enrollment periods for people who have recently lost coverage.

Enroll207.com offers comprehensive information on both MaineCare and private marketplace coverage.

The Affordable Care Act is playing a vital role in our nation’s and our state’s response to COVID-19. But no public health strategy can be successful if people don’t have access to the quality health care they need, when they need it. We must remember the people who continue to fall through the cracks, including individuals and families with limited incomes who struggle to meet basic needs but can’t afford coverage, even with subsidies through the ACA. And now, because of COVID-19, we must also keep in mind those who have lost both their jobs and their health insurance coverage. Fortunately, many Mainers will have access to affordable health coverage because of the ACA and the voter-approved expansion of MaineCare.

Policymakers at every level, from municipal boards to the Maine Legislature to Congress, should do all we can to preserve the progress we have. Equally important, we need to keep building on that progress until every Mainer has access to the health care they need when they need it, regardless of how much money they make. We need to do all we can, not just to fight the spread of the coronavirus, but also to make sure families can stay healthy or get the treatment they need into the future.


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