Eric Galatas, Public News Service

DENVER — An estimated 3.5 million Americans lost their employer-based health insurance over the past two weeks due to job losses connected to the coronavirus crisis, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Colorado has extended enrollment for coverage through for all uninsured residents until April 30.

Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, says people who have been laid off also should qualify for financial assistance to help pay for premiums.

“If individuals lose their employment after that April 30th deadline, they still will be able to enroll in coverage because loss of employment is a qualifying event that will open up a 60-day special enrollment period,” he points out.

Fox says Colorado residents who lose their income altogether will likely qualify for Medicaid coverage, which doesn’t charge premiums and has very low out-of-pocket costs.

More than 81,000 Coloradans filed for unemployment insurance in the past two weeks, just 20,000 less than all of last year’s claims.

The Trump administration has promised free coronavirus testing, but Fox says it’s important to extend help even further.

While many who contract COVID-19 are able to recover at home, those who require treatment often spend a week or more in the hospital, which can become very costly, very quickly.

“If consumers are facing the out-of-pocket maximums of their health insurance plans, that can be devastating to Colorado families that may already be struggling from loss of income or loss of employment,” Fox states.

The United States is unique among developed nations in linking health insurance to employment. Roughly half of all U.S. workers receive health coverage through work.

The Trump administration has so far declined to extend enrollment for coverage under the Affordable Care Act in the 38 states that rely on the federal government to administer their exchanges.

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