Lost your health insurance due to COVID-19? Here's where to find help in the Central Valley

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- More than 36 million Americans and four million Californians have lost their jobs since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

And it's not just their income they've lost. For most of them, it's their health insurance too.

Construction work has always kept Kenneth Ramos busy and fed his family.

But when the coronavirus appeared, his work dried up.

His income disappeared and he realized he was at risk for worse.

"When this hit I said 'You know what? I need insurance because of this virus going around'," he said.

Ramos is one of 27 million Americans who lost health insurance provided by employers, according to analysis published this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

19 million of them are able to switch to coverage from a family member's employer.

But that leaves 8 million newly uninsured.

"We've seen an uptick in people wanting to get healthcare coverage that they lost through their prior employer," said Gordon Paul, a Fresno Covered California certified agent.

Covered California is helping a lot of unemployed people stay insured through a subsidized program, much cheaper than the usual COBRA coverage for people who have just been laid off.

Paul's northwest Fresno office saw a lot of them looking for help starting in March.

"Our goal is to give them some peace of mind knowing their coverage is going to pick up where they left off on their previous employer plan," he said.

The federal government has pledged to cover almost all health care costs directly related to the coronavirus, but there are still penalties in California for not carrying insurance.

Medicaid might be the best option for people who've lost their income. You can check whether you qualify here.

It's essentially free and it's based on monthly income, not annual income.

Ramos is hoping his job and insurance pick up again soon.

But in the meantime, he's glad to have the Covered California safety net.

"(I feel) better now," he said after getting coverage Friday. "Definitely. It's good we have something like this to help us out."

The state's Obamacare insurance exchange reopened enrolment through the end of June because of the coronavirus.

And even families that can't afford health insurance for the adults in the family can possibly get free or cheaper coverage for their children.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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