How the Federal CARES Act May Affect Your Health Coverage

Congress passed and the President signed a $2 trillion federal relief package that will provide some immediate help to many Americans facing health and economic shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “CARES Act”, as it’s called, included Recovery Rebates for Individuals (cash payments) as well as extended and enhanced federal Unemployment Insurance. While many Californians will receive this needed assistance, much more help will be needed to get us through this public health crisis. We will be need your help to advocate for that assistance as it develops.

If you have been or become uninsured during this crisis, including if you lost employer-based coverage, Medi-Cal and Covered California are important options to provide you with peace of mind, more economic security, and access to care including the testing and treatment for the coronavirus.

While Health Access continues to analyze the CARES Act for it’s impacts in California, we wanted to highlight some information on how income will calculated which may affect a person’s eligibility for Medi-Cal or for affordability assistance in Covered California.

  • If you are on Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid): Only the regular unemployment insurance payments will affect your income eligibility for the program. This means that you will not need to calculate any of the additional $600 in unemployment benefits or the cash payments coming from the IRS as part of your income when estimating if you are able to enroll in Medi-Cal.
  • If you purchase coverage through Covered California (or the individual market): Your estimated income is what is used to determine your eligibility for federal and state subsidies to help bring down the cost of your coverage.
    • The cash payment you receive from the federal government will not be counted as income. This means it will not be seen as an income increase that would change your eligibility for subsidies to help pay for coverage.
    • If you receive a federal unemployment benefit extension, or if you receive the additional weekly $600 amount in unemployment benefits, you will need to count these payments as part of your overall income. This means that these supplemental payments may increase your income and affect the amount of subsidy you are awarded for health coverage assistance.
Type of federal relief

Type of health coverage

Will the federal help be counted towards my income?

Medi-Cal/Medicaid Covered California/Individual Insurance Market
Cash payments No No
Extended unemployment benefits Yes Yes
Additional $600 in unemployment benefits No Yes

The bottom line is that if you are uninsured, you should sign up for coverage and there is financial assistance available up and down the income spectrum. We hope this information can help you start planning for your health care coverage needs. Please contact Health Access if you have further questions.