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Comprehensive Updates on Financial & Insurance Resources During Covid-19

During this unprecedented time, there are a lot of changes at the federal and state levels to help people manage their finances, work, and insurance.  We will be sharing a series of blogs with details about these programs, as more information is released, including federal regulations.

Please note that this information is changing frequently, so please make sure to get the latest information directly from these resources.

This blog will focus on changes that may be helpful to you in the areas of finances and your health insurance.  There is a lot of key information below. Later this week we will provide details about new unemployment benefits, paid sick leave, and paid family leave.

Finances

If you are having trouble paying your bills, it is important to contact the companies that you have accounts with and talk to them about your options. Don’t just ignore your bills. There may also be options (some of which are discussed below) to deal with your bills.  There are also financial assistance programs available.

Triage Cancer has released a new COVID-19 Module on www.CancerFinances.org with information and financial assistance resources.


Drivers Licenses:

    • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security delayed the deadline for issuing Real IDs for one year, until October 1, 2021. The previous deadline was October 1, 2020.


School Closures:


Taxes:


Food:

  • If you need assistance with food, there are a number of resources available.
  • Find a local food bank online at feedingamerica.com or call 800-771-2303
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps):
    • This federal program that provides nutrition benefits to low-income individuals and families that are used at stores to buy food. There have been recent questions about the ability to buy food online. Only 6 states currently allow online food purchases: AL, NE, NY, WA, IA, OR.  However, the benefits can’t be used to pay for service or delivery fees.  MD and NJ have online pilot projects that have not yet begun.
    • For information on how to apply in your state.
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC):
    • WIC provides low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 with nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating including breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care.
    • To apply: visit your state’s website or call them.
  • If your children normally get access to meals at school, there are a few ways that schools are continuing to provide food for kids and families, including drive-thru distribution at schools that are closed, and local food truck days. Contact your child’s school or school district for more information.


Self-Storage


Utilities

  • Contact your utility companies and request payment plans.


Mortgages, Leases, Loans, & Credit Cards:

Contact your mortgage company or your landlord to see if you qualify for mortgage or rent relief.

  • The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) announced that is would suspend foreclosures and evictions of homeowners with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which applies to more than 8 million homes.
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would also stop foreclosures and evictions of homeowners. Check to see if you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage or check at KnowYourOptions.com.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will grant mortgage forbearance to owners of multifamily properties in exchange for suspending evictions. This applies to all Fannie- and Freddie-backed mortgages in situations where renters can’t afford to make their monthly payments due to Covid-19.
  • Some cities and states have suspended evictions, (e.g., Washington, Maryland, New York, & Detroit) but others are only postponing them for a few weeks or months. Rules vary widely, so check to see what rules may apply in your area.
  • Several major banks and other financial institutions have agreed to provide financial relief to consumers. For example:
    • Bank of America is offering support to customers who need help making home loan payments or credit card payments. You can submit an online request for a payment deferral. Note, most companies phone lines are overwhelmed at the moment and they have limited in-person services.
    • Wells Fargo is offering special automatic accommodations, where you do not need to call to request a suspension of residential property foreclosure sales and evictions or suspension of involuntary automobile repossessions. For mortgage customers, they are offering a 90-day payment suspension, which can be requested online, or by calling 800-219-9739. They are also offering accommodations related to credit cards, car loans, small business, and personal loans.
    • In California, the Governor negotiated with 4 of the largest banks (Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, CitiBank, and J.P. Morgan Chase), as well as 200 state-chartered banks and credit unions to provide mortgage relief to those struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments due to Covid-19.
    • These are other companies that are offering support to their customers:


Students Loans:

  • Federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payment. This suspension of payments will last until Sept. 30, 2020, but you can still make payments if you choose. Learn more here: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus
  • Borrowers with other types of student loans should contact their student loan servicers to ask about loan options.


Estate Planning:


Social Security Benefits:

In response to Covid-19, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made significant changes to its operations and policies.

  • Local SSA offices are closed to the public indefinitely. Local offices continue to provide some services over the phone (search by local office by zip code, scroll down past the listing of the hours, and click on the plus sign to “Show Additional Office Information” for the phone #.
  • Online services are available.
  • SSA is extending their deadlines for filing wherever possible.
  • SSA is not starting or completing any medical continuing disability reviews (CDRs), and has suspended processing and collecting most new overpayments. However, SSA will continue established collection activity for existing overpayments.
  • All in-person hearings before an Administrative Law Judge have been cancelled, and claimants and their representatives who are scheduled to have a hearing soon are being contacted to schedule telephone hearings.


Cash Assistance:

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides cash assistance to all U.S. residents:
    • $1,200 for individual adults (with adjusted gross income up to $75,000)
    • $2,400 for couples (with income up to $150,000)
    • $500 for each qualifying child age 16 or under
    • Payments for adults with adjusted gross income levels above those amounts are reduced, and eventually phase out at $99,000 for individuals; head-of-household filers with one child at $146,500; and $198,000 for couples without children
  • You can find your adjusted gross income on Line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax return. If you haven’t filed taxes for 2019, you can use your 2018 return. If you haven’t filed that, you can use a 2019 Social Security statement showing your income to see what your employer reported to the IRS.
  • This calculator can help you figure out your payment.
  • For most people, the checks will arrive by direct deposit (using the account that they pay for their taxes) in the month of April. Mailed checks will take longer. According to the Act, you will get a paper notice in the mail not later than a few weeks after your payment has been sent.
  • Social Security retirement and disability benefit recipients who don’t usually file taxes will still get the $1,200 payment through their regular direct deposit account.
  • You can’t get a payment if you don’t have a Social Security number, or if someone claims you as a dependent, even if you are an adult.
  • You do not have to pay income taxes on your payment. It will also not affect eligibility for Marketplace financial assistance or Medicaid eligibility.
  • The IRS has outlined details on its website.

 

Health Insurance

Triage Cancer has many resources on the topic of health insurance, which can be found at https://TriageCancer.org/HealthInsurance.

Options if Uninsured:

These states have reopened their State Health Insurance Marketplaces and some have extended their deadlines since we last reported on this topic:

  • California: Enrollment is open through June 30
  • Colorado: Enrollment is 3/20-4/30 – online or call 855-75206749
  • Connecticut: Enrollment is 3/19-4/17 – online or call 855-365-2428
  • Washington, D.C. Enroll now.  No deadline at this point. Online or call 855-532-5465
  • Maryland: Enrollment is 3/16-6/15 – online or call 855-642-8572
  • Massachusetts: Enrollment is now through 5/25 – online or call 877-623-6765
  • Nevada: Enrollment is 3/17-4/15 – online or call 800-547-2927
  • New York: Enrollment is 3/16-5/15 – online or call 855-355-5777
  • Rhode Island: Enrollment is now through 4/15 – online or call 855-840-4774
  • Washington: Enrollment is 3/18-5/8 – online or call 855-923-4633

Unfortunately, the President announced this week that he would not reopen the Marketplaces in the 32 states that use www.HealthCare.gov. However, the advocacy community is voicing their concern over this decision.


Options if Losing Employer-Sponsored Coverage:

If you are losing access to employer-sponsored health insurance options, you may have a number of options, including COBRA, enrolling in a Marketplace plans through a Special Enrollment Period, and Medicaid.


Insurance Companies That Have Announced Decisions to Waive Costs for Covid-19 Testing & Treatment:

  • BCBS of Michigan – all out-of-pocket costs for testing, treatment, and telehealth
  • Cigna – co-payments and co-insurance for treatment
  • Humana – co-payments and co-insurance for treatment
  • CVS Health / Aetna – co-payments and co-insurance for treatment of inpatient admissions


Other State Health Insurance News:

  • Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner banned insurance companies from canceling health insurance policies of those who miss payments “until further notice,” and to not cancel business policies for missed payments for the next 60 days.
  • DC includes information about the Covid-19 benefits that must be provided by insurance companies.
  • Rhode Island insurance mandate penalty began on January 1, 2020.
  • Utah has suspended their Medicaid work requirements for the new Medicaid Expansion program.
  • A new 50-state survey from KFF provides a comprehensive look at Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program eligibility, enrollment, renewal, premium and cost sharing policies for each state as of January 2020. States can adopt a range of policy and process options under current Medicaid rules to enhance their response to COVID-19, and seek waivers for additional flexibility.


Of course, things are developing quickly on this front. We will continue to post updates here as they happen. We are also offering a free webinar on April 21, 2020, discussing Key Changes to Insurance, Finances, & Work During COVID-19. This webinar is open to anyone and free continuing education (CEs) will be available for nurses and social workers. 

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Monica Bryant
mb@triagecancer.org