Have you recently lost your job...or are you nervous that you might?
Let go, downsized, fired, laid off. The list goes on. However, health coverage may not.
Unemployment is a real problem affecting many in our country today. Now may be a smart time to take a careful look at your health insurance or health benefits coverage.
A little preparation today can go a long way, and help you and your family down the road. So, let's get started!
Know your options
First, understand exactly when your employer coverage ends. If you are offered a severance package, ask if health coverage continues during the severance period.
And know that you have other options once your employer coverage ends. Here are a few to think about.
COBRA - also known as the "Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985" - may give you the right to continue health coverage under certain conditions. This act applies to dislocated workers and families, even those facing reduced work hours, causing them to lose eligibility for health insurance.
Wondering if you might qualify?
To be eligible for COBRA:
But watch that clock! If eligible, you should receive a COBRA notice from your employer. Make sure to ask for the notice if you don't get one.
Be sure to read it carefully. In order to continue coverage, you must sign up for COBRA within a certain time - typically within 60 days from your eligibility date.
Prepare for a little sticker shock. While most employers must extend your health benefits for 18 months under COBRA, the cost can be considerable.
In fact, the typical cost is 102 percent of the premium. This includes the actual cost to your employer, not just the amount you have taken from your pay. Paying double or more is not unheard of to keep the same coverage.
Help has arrived this year, however. Congress passed new COBRA legislation as part of the President's economic stimulus package. It provides newly unemployed workers with financial support to help them buy COBRA insurance. This financial aid covers 65 percent of the premium for nine months.
Depending on your own personal circumstances, COBRA may be worth the price tag, simply for peace of mind. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor's website for more information.
Individual health insurance plans come in all shapes and sizes. You can buy your own coverage similar to what you had through your former employer. Or you could choose a lower coverage level for a lower price. It's up to you!
In some cases, individual health insurance may be more affordable than COBRA.
Depending on where you live, you might need to fill out a health survey form. That's because your health history can affect your eligibility for the plan, as well as the cost.
It's worth looking into individual health plans in your area to see what is available. You can start your search by visiting eHealthInsurance.com to get a quick, online quote now.
Free or low-cost programs
You and your family might be eligible for either free or low-cost health insurance through Medicaid and SCHIP.
If you're like many Americans, you may not be aware of these programs, or know if you're eligible and how to enroll.
Medicaid is the main source of health insurance for the uninsured in the United States. It provides coverage to people who meet certain financial conditions.
Each state has its own Medicaid program. And all of them have different benefits packages and eligibility requirements.
SCHIP provides health insurance to children. It's for children whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford coverage on their own.
Each state also has its own SCHIP program. And each program has its own benefits package and eligibility requirements.
Want to learn more? Visit Insure Your Health.
A few more tips
There are other ways to manage your health care needs after a job loss: