By Attorney General Roy Cooper
During these difficult economic times, many North Carolina families are struggling to make ends meet, especially those families that have been hit by layoffs. Across our state, 11 percent of workers are out of a job. For many people, losing your job also means losing your health insurance.
If you’ve recently been laid off and are wondering what to do about health care coverage for your family, here are some tips that may help:
- Find out exactly when your health insurance benefits will end. If possible, refill any prescriptions and get needed medical treatment before your insurance runs out.
- Find out if your employer provides severance pay or continued health insurance as part of your benefits package.
- You may be entitled to keep your health insurance for 18 months by paying the premiums yourself, a program commonly called COBRA. You may even be able to get federal help paying for COBRA premiums. For more information, contact your human resources department or the U.S. Department of Labor at 1-866-444-3272.
- Most North Carolina counties have at least one free medical clinic. Information on clinic locations and the types of help they offer is available from the NC Institute of Medicine at www.nchealthcarehelp.org or from the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics at www.ncfreeclinics.org or (336) 287-4317.
- Check with your county social service agency to see if you’re eligible for Medicaid, or if your children are eligible for health insurance coverage under a program called Health Choice. To locate your county Medical Assistance office, call 1-800-662-7030.
- If you have health conditions that make it difficult to get insurance, you may still be able to get coverage through the N.C. Health Insurance Risk Pool. For more information about this program, called Inclusive Health, call 1-866-655-2117.
- Most drug companies have special programs to help patients who can’t afford their medication. For information about these programs, contact your local free clinic, the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics (contact information above), Rx Assist at www.rxassist.org, or the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at 1-888-477-2669. My office recently teamed up with the NC Association of Free Clinics to start a central pharmacy to provide medications donated by drug companies to clinics, county health departments, rural health centers, and other health care providers.
- Help may also be available from local civic and faith-based groups.
What if you have health insurance, but the insurance company has denied you coverage?