Health & Science

Job loss and lapse in health insurance—what you can do to get your family the care they need

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Millions of Americans have lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic—which means millions have lost their health insurance as well. Being left without health coverage for yourself and your family can be incredibly unsettling, especially in the midst of a global public health crisis.

But for those who do experience a lapse in coverage, there are free and low-cost resources that can help in many different health and mental health situations. Here are some places to look, depending on your family’s needs.

Suspected coronavirus infection

Covid-19 is a top concern for families, whether they have health insurance or not. Luckily many states and counties are offering free Covid-19 viral tests and/or antibody tests to those who qualify, so you may be able to get some answers if a family member is experiencing symptoms or you suspect you’ve been exposed to the virus. Visit your state’s health department website to find out more—many of them have a coronavirus hotline that helps you access this information and get an appointment.

In addition, free Covid-19 testing is now available at certain pharmacies and grocery stores across the country, thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Check this HHS list to find no-cost testing sites in your state.

Emotional and mental health support

This pandemic has taken an emotional and mental health toll on everyone. It’s important to know that there are places to turn even if you don’t think you can afford regular virtual visits with a therapist right now.

For those seeking immediate help during times of crisis or emotional distress, there are many free hotlines and text lines to contact, including the Crisis Text Line, the Disaster Distress Helpline, and others.

If you’re looking for reduced cost access to mental health or substance abuse services, search the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment locator. You can filter your search to show only those facilities that offer “payment assistance” or “sliding fee scale.”

Also look up local hospitals, universities, community centers, and more for other free or low-cost resources that might be available in your area, like support groups, research studies, or training programs for psychologists. Some private therapists provide services on a sliding scale as well—it never hurts to ask.

General healthcare resources

For any other healthcare needs for your family, there may be free and low-cost treatment options available in your area. Federally funded health centers provide care to anyone, regardless of whether they have insurance or means to pay. You can find the closest ones to you by searching the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) directory.

Some other hospitals and health centers are required to provide free or low-cost care to those who qualify through the Hill-Burton program. See the list of participating facilities here, but note that you have to ask and apply for this assistance at the facility—it will not be automatically offered. To apply for subsidized health care, you will have to show pay stubs or some other proof of income, so ask what you need to provide.

The stress of losing a job while parenting during a pandemic is already a lot to deal with. Let’s hope these resources help you get your family the care they need, even if you don’t have health insurance at the moment.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.