What should I do before free COBRA ends on September 30, 2021?

  1. Schedule any doctor’s visits or services that you can before your Union health insurance expires. If you take prescriptions, call the UH Health Clinic or your pharmacy to schedule delivery of 3 months of your medication. If you need glasses or want to use your vision benefits, do so HERE while your healthcare is active.
  2. Then, find the best alternative to your union health insurance plan with the information below.

OK, so my free COBRA is expiring. Can I keep my current insurance? Can I just pay my union dues to continue my insurance coverage?

You can’t keep your current health insurance just by paying Union dues. Your healthcare is paid for by the companies, because we’ve shown them that we are powerful together. Your dues don’t pay for healthcare – they pay for us to build a fighting union.

If you’ve been getting free COBRA, you can continue in COBRA, which continues your same healthcare as before. If you were on a company health insurance plan before being laid off, you can also apply for COBRA through that plan. The rates and coverage for a company health insurance plan will be different than what’s below.  Under COBRA, you’re responsible for the part of the payments that the company would have been paying for you if you had not been laid off. That means that COBRA is costly for individuals, and very expensive for families.  Below are the rates for how much COBRA coverage of Union health insurance will cost once the Union healthcare ends. We understand that the family rates aren’t possible for most people.

How expensive is COBRA insurance through the Union?

Hotel Plan

Medical Dental Vision
Single $495.02 $32.04 $4.29
Dependent $710.79 $46.01 $6.16
Family $1,205.81 $78.05 $10.45

Restaurant Plan

Medical Dental Vision
Single $455.55 $26.72 $3.20
Dependent $654.12 $38.36 $4.60
Family $1,109.67 $65.08 $7.80

Casino Plan

Medical Dental Vision
Single $837.52 $9.88 $2.14
Single + Spouse $1786.42 $21.06 $4.56
Single + Child(ren) $1,396.98 $16.47 $3.57
Family $2,480.72 $29.25 $6.34

COBRA looks really expensive. What are my other options?

If you’re 65 or older, we recommend that you sign up for Medicare. As a federal health care insurance program, it is largely the same in Illinois and Indiana. It generally covers 80% of medical services (although you have to meet a deductible and there is cost-sharing). Younger people with certain disabilities are also eligible, as well as people with End-Stage Renal Disease. You must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident.

If you’re under 65, let’s talk about Medicaid (a.k.a. CountyCare, KidCare, Medical Card).  You must make less than a certain income level, determined by your family size. You must be a resident of the state in where you apply for benefits.  Citizens are eligible, and you may be eligible if you’re a qualified non-citizen who has been a resident for more than 5 years.  There are some exceptions to the 5 year requirement, such as for refugees, asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, trafficking victims, and veteran families.  Medicaid is a good state-administered program that provides comprehensive coverage for many medical needs. If you’re eligible for Medicaid, we recommend using this option. Click HERE for a step-by-step guide on how to apply for Medicaid.

However, please note that if you are not a U.S. citizen or green card holder who is meeting the current residency requirements, you should speak with a lawyer before you apply for Medicaid because it could impact your immigration process.  While the Union cannot give you legal advice, we can help direct you to low-cost or free immigration legal aid services.  You can also visit https://www.ailalawyer.com/ or https://www.immi.org/info/FindLegalHelp.

How do I know if I’m eligible for Medicaid?

If your monthly family income is below these numbers and you meet the residency/citizenship requirements, then you are likely eligible for Medicaid.

Note: While children ages 19-25 can be on your Union health insurance, they CANNOT apply with you on Medicaid, so they do not count in your family size. They may be eligible to apply on their own.

ILLINOIS 2020 Medicaid Guidelines

Family Size Max Monthly Family Income for
Medicaid for Children
(0-18 years old)
Max Monthly Family Income forMoms & Babies program

(include unborn child in family size)

Max Monthly Family Income for
Medicaid for Adults
(19+ years old)
1 $3,381 N/A $1,467
2 $4,569 $3,060 $1,983
3 $5,756 $3,885 $2,498
4 $6,943 $4,651 $3,013
5 $8,130 $5,446 $3,528
6 $9,317 $6,241 $4,043
7 $10,505 $7,036 $4,559
8 $11,692 $7,831 $5,074

Source: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/OneNetLibrary/5/documents/WAG_25_03_02_uploads/2020_03_01_WAG_25_03_02_Final.pdf, Last updated 9/2/20.


INDIANA 2020 Medicaid Guidelines

Family Size Max Monthly Family Income for
Medicaid for Children
(0-18 years old)
Max Monthly Family Income forPregnant Women (include unborn child in family size) Max Monthly Family Income for
Medicaid for Adults
(19+ years old)
1 $2,792 N/A $1,485
2 $3,772 $3,139 $2,006
3 $4,752 $3,954 $2,528
4 $5,732 $4, 770 $3,049
5 $6,712 $5,584 $3,571

Source: https://www.in.gov/medicaid/members/59.htm,Last updated 9/2/20.

What do I do if I can’t afford COBRA and I’m not eligible for Medicare and Medicaid?

First, try to sign up for Obamacare at www.healthcare.gov. Due to some provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Obamacare plans are much more affordable and might even be free for you.

Your next-best option is to go to a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). These centers offer affordable, comprehensive care in your community. They often offer a range of services, such as appointments with a physician, pharmacy services, vision care, dental care, and counseling. Many have Telehealth services. They do not offer on-site hospitalization.

The price of services depends on your income, but it should be affordable either way. Go ahead and make a first appointment.It’ll help for future medical needs to be an existing patient rather than a new patient.

  • Click HERE to see if you’ll pay on a normal rate or a sliding scale.
  • Click HERE to find an FQHC near you, in Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana! Find out what services are provided at each location.

What are the downsides to each plan?

Medicaid: Coverage is generally good, although you may not have as much choice of doctors as you currently do on the Union insurance plan. For help finding a doctor who takes Medicaid, call UNITE HERE Health at 800-419-4373. Some services will need prior authorization to be covered. Medicaid also often covers the generic brands of medicine but not the name-brand version.

Medicare: Many members do not qualify based on eligibility requirements

COBRA: If you had Union health insurance, you can continue your great coverage, but it is expensive. For Individual Medical/Dental/ Vision, the premiums range from $458.42 per month to $788.38 per month. Family coverage is significantly more expensive than that.

FQHCs: Services depend on which site you go to (i.e. not every site will have a full range of services). Cost will depend on your income, so you may or may not be able to pay based on a sliding scale.

How much can I expect to pay under each plan?

Medicaid: Generally, it is free for those who qualify. Exact costs and coverage will depend on your age, income, and if you live in Illinois or Indiana. In general, plans offer 100% coverage for a range of primary health services, with no co-pays, premiums, or deductibles. Most plans cover services for adults and kids like doctor visits and dental care, immunizations for children, therapy and counseling, hospital visits, and some prescription drugs.

Medicare: Medicare has 3 parts: Part A (Hospital insurance), Part B (Medical insurance), and Part D (Prescription coverage). Most do not pay a premium for Part A coverage, but there is a deductible. You will also typically pay a premium for Part B coverage. The standard Part B premium in 2020 is $144.60, but the exact amount depends on your income. After meeting the deductible, you typically pay 20% of the Medicare-approved medical services. You also have a premium, deductible, and cost-share for Part D coverage.

COBRA: This is the same coverage you had from before the layoff, but you pay the part of the insurance premium that the company paid while you were working. For example, in the Union health insurance plan for hotel workers, the coverage for individuals is the same (100% coverage with largely no co-pays). But the premium is about $500 per month instead of being free, to cover the part that used to be paid by the company. Family plan coverage can be more than double that amount. If you were on a company healthcare plan, the premiums will likely be cheaper, but for less comprehensive coverage.

FQHCs: The cost of the services will depend on your income. If you fall below a certain income (dependent on family size), you’ll pay on a sliding scale. If you make above a certain income, the cost will not be sliding-scale, but is usually affordable. You can check HERE to see whether the cost to you of services at an FQHC will be sliding scale or not.

How do I enroll in each of these plans?

Medicaid: Apply online at https://abe.illinois.gov/abe/access/. Check out our guide on how to apply HERE.

Medicare: Apply online at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/

Obamacare: https://www.healthcare.gov/

COBRA: You’ll get a “COBRA Notice” letter in the mail from Unite Here Health when your benefits are about to expire.  If you’re on Union health insurance, we’ll be sending out these letters soon.   Follow the directions on that letter. If you’re on a company plan, call your company to have them send you one if you have not received one. Please note: It is important that you select coverage and pay premiums within the timeframes specified in the notice. If you miss a deadline, then the plan is not required to reinstate your coverage.

FQHCs: First, find an FQHC near you with the services you need with our FQHC Finder. Then call the FQHC to get your first appointment set up so that you’re in their system. It is often easier to get follow-up appointments once you’ve had a first session. If you’ve filled out the Healthy Local 1 Intake survey, in the email we sent you for healthcare recommendations (subject line “UNITE HERE Local 1 Health Insurance”), we also included a list of the FQHCs closest to you.

I’m pregnant. What am I going to do when the Union healthcare expires?

Pregnant people may be eligible for Medicaid, through their pregnancy and for up to 60 days after the birth of the child. Likely (depending on your family income), the child will also qualify for Medicaid after that 60 day period. In Illinois, residency/citizenship requirements are waived for pregnant people.

Can I apply early for other healthcare plans before my Union health insurance expires? Is it bad to have both at once?

Prepare ahead! It’s good to go ahead and file for another form of healthcare now, before your Union healthcare expires.  In fact, Medicaid applications can take 4-6 weeks to be approved once you file, so don’t wait until the last minute. Similarly, if you’re going to use FQHCs, it is best to call ahead and make a first appointment now so that you’ll be in their system. While your Union healthcare is active, that will be your “primary” healthcare, and will be the first one that gets billed by a healthcare provider. Once your Union healthcare expires, we’ll walk you through how to make your other healthcare, like Medicaid, your main health insurance.