1. When I lost my job recently, my family also lost our health insurance. We can’t afford a private plan. How can we obtain healthcare coverage?

  • COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) is a federal law that, under certain conditions, gives former employees, their spouses, and dependent children the right to temporarily continue their health coverage at group rates. Under COBRA, you must pay the entire premium for the coverage, including the part that was formerly paid by the employer; however, this might in some cases still be less expensive than a private plan. COBRA is not a permanent solution, however, since the maximum period for which you can be covered under the law is 18 months.
  • If after 18 months you are still without health coverage through a new employer-sponsored group plan or private, you may be eligible for one of the following State or Federal public plans administered by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and US Department of Health and Human Services, respectively. These programs cover a comprehensive array of health services, including doctor visits and dental care, well-child care, immunizations for children, specialty medical services, mental health and substance abuse services, hospital care, nursing facility care, emergency services, prescription drugs, family planning and medical equipment and supplies.
  • Many groups of people are covered by the various public benefit programs, including
    • families and children, through programs such as All Kids or FamilyCare;
    • older adults (over age 65), through Medicare, the nation’s largest public health plan; and
    • individuals with disabilities, through AABD Medical or SSDI.
    • Individuals between 19-64 years of age who live in Cook County, and who meet income limits may be eligible for CountyCare, a Medicaid program available under healthcare reform.  

For more information and a full list of the public healthcare coverage programs in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Website.

2. My employer recently reduced my hours from full-time to part-time, and I no longer work enough hours each week to be covered under the company’s health plan. What can I do?

  • Like former employees who were laid off, COBRA is also available to some employees who lose their benefits due to an involuntary reduction in hours. See the description of COBRA (link to COBRA above) above or the Illinois Department of Insurance website for more information about COBRA
  • If COBRA is not an option for you either because you are ineligible or the premiums are too burdensome, one of the above-mentioned public health plans (link to public benefits above) may be right for you.

3. I don’t have any insurance coverage. Where can I go for free or low-cost medical care?

There are many free or low-cost medical clinics in the Chicago area, spread throughout many neighborhoods of the city and suburbs. To search for a clinic near your home, search under “Health Care” in the J-HELP Searchable Database. If this does not yield the information you need, please contact CJE SeniorLife for services to adults age 60 and older, or Jewish Child and Family Services.

  • Within the Jewish Federation system, Mount Sinai Hospital and its Touhy Health Clinic both offer safety net medical services for individuals from all backgrounds who lack insurance or are unable to afford medical treatment elsewhere.
  • In addition, The ARK’s Goldie Bachmann Luftig Health Center offers medical, dental, and eye clinics for members of the Chicago area Jewish community who are similarly unable to seek treatment elsewhere.

4. I keep hearing about the Affordable Care Act and something called the Marketplace.  What is it and will it help me? 

The State Marketplace will operate a website where uninsured and underinsured individuals and families can shop for and purchase health insurance. It will offer a range of health insurance products at different levels based upon one's needs. The products will be divided into four classes, from bronze (generally the lowest premium but highest out-of-pocket costs) to platinum (generally the highest premium but lowest out-of-pocket costs). Individuals and families up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who are insured through the Marketplace may get lower costs on monthly premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs depending on income and family size.

The Marketplace will be open for enrollment from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014.  The earliest your coverage could start is January 1, 2014.  If you want some more information or to find out what you can do now to get ready, click here.


5. Each month it is becoming more and more difficult to pay for my family’s prescription medications. What can I do? I am worried that soon I will have to stop taking my prescription altogether.

  • Your first step should be to discuss your concerns with your doctor. If you are being prescribed brand-name medications, ask whether your doctor can change your prescription to the generic equivalent. Generic drugs are exactly the same as their brand-name counterparts – they have the same dosages, side effects, uses, strengths, safety, risks, and routes of administration as the original. Switching to a generic form of a given medication may save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.
  • Many pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs for individuals taking their medications (and in certain cases other companies’ medications) who lose insurance or are otherwise unable to afford their prescriptions. Check the websites of the companies that makes your and your family’s medications to see whether they offer this assistance.
  • The State of Illinois also offers two prescription benefits that may reduce or even eliminate some of your prescription medication costs.
    • If you or any family members are over age 65, or over age 16 with a disability, you may be eligible for Illinois Cares Rx.
    • If you are not eligible for Illinois Cares Rx but meet certain income eligibility guidelines, you may enroll in the Illinois Rx Buying Club. Through Illinois Rx Buying Club, you may be able to save up to 20% each year on the total costs of your medications.
  • J-HELP has supported Pharmacy Assistance programs to ensure that community members have access to the life preserving medications they need. For more information about Pharmacy Assistance, contact The ARK, EZRA Multi-Service Center, or Mount Sinai Hospital’s Touhy Health Center.

6. The stress of not knowing how I’m going to provide for my family from day to day is starting to take its toll on me mentally and emotionally. Is there someone I can talk to who can help me cope with this?

  • There are many other agencies in the Chicago area that offer counseling and support for individuals and families from all backgrounds. For a more comprehensive list of mental health and counseling services, search for “Counseling” or “Mental Health” services in the J-HELP Searchable Database.
  • JUF/Federation and its affiliate agencies understand that this is a difficult time not just financially; the repercussions of this current economic climate can be felt physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and in so many other ways. The following affiliate and beneficiary agencies of the JUF/Federation offer affordable counseling and mental health services on a sliding-scale fee schedule to help you and your family cope with both new and existing stressors and emotional struggles during these tough times.
    • At Jewish Child and Family Services, counseling is available to individuals of all ages. Whatever issues may need to be addressed, the clinician provides all clients with a comprehensive and integrated plan to address individual needs. For families, family counseling can improve communication, reduce conflict and increase positive interaction between all family members. With very young children, the play therapy model is used and children can express their emotions through play. Ongoing group counseling and therapy is also available.
    • CJE SeniorLife’s counseling services welcomes adults ages 60 and older who are interested in finding more effective ways of managing the difficult situations that can sometimes occur in their lives. For community members who are able to travel outside the home, office appointments are available. For those who have difficulty traveling or are home-bound, counselors and social workers are available for appointments in the home.
    • At The ARK, the Psychological Services Program’s large volunteer staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and social workers supports members of Chicago’s Jewish community as they struggle through crisis. Through group and individual therapy sessions, individuals and families are able to develop the necessary inner resources to cope with the challenges they face in their daily lives.