Questions about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) continue to swirl through daily updates and new information. How do I stay healthy? How can I afford to be sick? What happens if I lose my income? How do I protect myself and my family?
Stress is often the result of uncertainty. Because stress alone can make us sick or more susceptible to disease, it is important to take steps to reduce uncertainty by staying informed and planning ahead when possible.
How can I stay healthy? Most importantly, get answers and information from a reputable source. Helpful suggestions can be found from the CDC, The World Health Organization, and your state or local health department. All provide instructions for simple preventative precautions that you can take to reduce the likelihood of getting sick:
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Keep a distance of three feet from others whenever possible.
- Stay home from work or other activities if you are sick.
Coping with financial stress
Can I afford to get sick? The new virus strain might be scary, causing worry about paying for the virus testing and hospital bills. Staying home from work might mean a missed paycheck, or even a lost job.
There is help. Many insurance providers are covering the cost of the test as well as waiving co-payments. Check with your own insurance company for details. If you’re on Medicare, Medicare Part B covers coronavirus (COVID-19) testing. This test is covered when your doctor or other health care provider orders it.
Important: Call your health care provider first before seeking the test. A referral is required, and testing is not appropriate in all cases. Do you live in Maryland and do not have health insurance? There’s a checkbox on the MD income tax form to notify the Maryland Health Connection if you don’t have health insurance. Anyone deemed eligible will be mailed a letter allowing them to sign up for health insurance within 35 days under special enrollment.
What about loss of income? Employer response varies widely — some are offering paid or partial paid leave, some are not or simply can’t. Discuss concerns with your employer. Are you self-employed? Proposed federal legislation offers relief.
How can I meet my obligations and expenses? Policies are quickly being implemented to specifically meet coronavirus related needs.
- Eviction is temporarily prohibited for any coronavirus-related delay in rent payment.
- Shutoffs and late fees are currently suspended.
- Meals for children. There are over 100 locations across the state to provide three meals and a snack to children impacted by school closings.
- Mortgage, student loan, and other debts. Talk directly with your lender for updates on terms. There is proposed legislation to provide debt relief for student loan and other borrowers.
- Help with basic needs. Start with your local Community Action Agency.
How do I plan ahead for events like this? The biggest concern now is to stay healthy. However, when the crisis is over, there are steps you can take to reduce financial stress in the future.
- Have an emergency fund just for loss income. Start saving with small steps. If you can save one hour of pay each week for a year, you will have more than a full week’s pay saved.
- Evaluate your health insurance plan each year during open enrollment to make sure the plan you have is your best choice. Resources for this can be found here, especially on pages 13-18.
- Know your health insurance deductible and estimate your annual health care costs so they can be included in your spending plan.
It is very important to receive information about the coronavirus and financial help from reliable sources. A few are listed below:
Protecting Your Health
Coronavirus information from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Coronavirus information Maryland Department of Health (MDH)
Tests for the coronavirus-Frequently asked questions from the Maryland Department of Health
Updated information from the Maryland Governor’s Office
Stopping the spread of Coronavirus (available in English, Spanish, and Chinese)
Symptoms of Coronavirus(available in English, Spanish, and Chinese)
Coping with Stress
World Health Organization (WHO), coping with stress during the coronavirus outbreak
World Health Organization (WHO), helping children cope with stress during the coronavirus outbreak
Coping with Financial Stress
National Extension’s Financial Security for All