How to handle health insurance and diabetes in the wake of a job loss

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Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC

Unemployment can be a difficult situation to find yourself in, and for people with diabetes, additional concerns around health insurance rise to the top of the stressors list. In the United States, health insurance is largely tied to employment, which makes the loss of a job even more distressing, since diabetes can be an expensive condition to manage.

If you live with diabetes and are experiencing a job loss, reduced hours resulting in dropped coverage, or tight finances that are preventing you from being able to pay for your independent policy premiums, rest assured you will get through this. Here's how to move forward.

Take a breath, then take action

If you find out you'll be losing your health coverage, the first thing you'll want to do is contact your pharmacy to refill your eligible prescriptions. In most situations, you would be covered through the end of the month (maybe longer), so you can use that time to squeeze in any last-minute appointments or refills while you have the chance.

If you aren't already utilizing 90-day refills, this may be a good time to have your doctor rewrite your prescription so you can get three months of supplies to help get you through while figuring out your next steps. You can also contact your pharmacy for assistance in requesting prescription refills by reaching out to your doctor's office on your behalf.

Access coverage and social support programs

If you've lost your health insurance, your first question might be, "how do I get covered again?"

Remember that losing a job or health coverage is considered a qualifying event under the Affordable Care Act, which means you can get covered with a new plan at any time of year, even if it's outside of open enrollment season, as HealthCare.gov outlined. This allows you to find coverage on the healthcare exchange or with Medicaid in your state. Additionally, you may have the option of being added to a parent's plan (if you're under age 26) or join in with a spouse or domestic partner.

It's also wise to find out if you're eligible for Medicaid, a federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources, USA.gov explained. If you're not eligible for Medicaid, explore your options for purchasing a plan through the healthcare exchange. It's possible that you may be eligible for subsidies and/or cost-sharing opportunities. You can learn more about Medicaid and other coverage options at HealthCare.gov.

Finally, you may have the option to stay covered through COBRA (a provision of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), which provides continued coverage under your current employer plan, according to HealthCare.gov. If you select this option, you'll be responsible for the whole amount of your premium, plus any amount of cost-sharing that your employer had previously been contributing. COBRA can be financially unsustainable to maintain, especially in the situation of a job loss, so investigate this option thoroughly before committing.

Everyone's situation is different, so be sure to explore all of your options and choose what's right for your needs.

Seek resources for people living with diabetes

Many organizations and resources are available to help people with diabetes through difficult financial times. You shouldn't hesitate to ask for help when you need it, especially when it comes to your health! Here are a few resources you can look into in the event of a job loss:

Patient assistance programs. Insulin manufacturers and device companies have programs to assist people going through tough times, so don't hesitate to explore what's available to you. Reach out directly to patient assistance helplines or research the website of the medications and devices that you use to manage your diabetes, such as continuous glucose monitors.

Local nonprofits. Your community may have groups that can provide assistance in sifting through your healthcare options and accessing vital medications, like insulin. Community foundations, religious organizations, and hospitals may be able to provide you with help in a variety of different forms such as hardship grants, help with prescription costs, and assistance through insulin relief programs. Begin your search by taking a look at the financial help guide offered by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, then call local diabetes clinics and social support organizations to find out what kind of help is available in your area.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). A program of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), FQHCs provide comprehensive healthcare services for underserved areas with fees on a sliding scale. You can perform an online search through the HRSA to locate an FQHC in your area and learn if you're eligible to receive treatment there.

Find hope when losing coverage

Facing the loss of a job and/or health insurance can cause an overwhelming avalanche of fear and uncertainty. During an event like this, it's important to take each moment one at a time.

Set aside an hour to map out your next steps, and enroll the help of a friend or family member if figuring out health insurance and diabetes feels like too much to handle by yourself right now. Having a plan will help you stay focused on moving forward, while taking steps to continue caring for your health in a challenging time.

Looking to get more support for your diabetes from family and friends? Read about how to have those important conversations on the Edgepark Health Insights blog.

Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC

Bio: Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC is a Mayo Clinic-trained National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and the author of “Type 1 Diabetes Caregiver Confidence: A Guide for Caregivers of Children Living with Type 1 Diabetes.” Drawing from her own experience in living with T1D, Samantha is dedicated to empowering individuals and families to live well and thrive while managing health challenges and achieving their goals.

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