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COBRA Insurance and the NFL – COBRA Insurance Benefits Employees in All Sectors

Posted on: April 9th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

COBRA Insurance and the NFL – COBRA Insurance Benefits Employees in All SectorsIn wake of the recent NFL lockout for many teams, many NFL players find themselves  in the same situation as many Americans, concerned about their own well being and the well being of their families, as they find themselves without a contract and on the verge of a stretch of unemployment. So what are these players doing, the same thing that many Americans do when they find themselves in the same situation.  Players on many teams, including the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans are signing up for COBRA insurance to keep themselves and their families protected until the end of the lockout.  Stevens, a player on the Titans recently said in an interview with the Tennessean said “”It’s definitely a risk and it stinks. Most of the guys have their Cobra insurance. We’re paying for our insurance. But it stinks if you get hurt. We’re preparing for the season, but the team has no liability towards us.”  So what can we learn from this?

We can learn the same thing these players are learning.  That in times of uncertainty, when we are unsure what our future employment situation holds, COBRA insurance is a great interim insurance option to keep yourself and your family protected.  COBRA insurance, although sometimes costly, ensures that we maintain coverage through uncertainty and protects us.  That is why the bill was passed by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and why for so many of us it continues to be an incredibly important piece of legislation.

COBRA Insurance and the LGBTQ Community

Posted on: April 8th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

COBRA Insurance and the LGBTQ CommunityOn March 11, 2011, representative Anthony Weiner of New York and Barbara Boxer of California introduced new legislation to the House and the Senate, respectively, to ensure that the LGBTQ community would be eligible for COBRA insurance in a bill called the Equal Access to COBRA Act.  In sharing the act, Barbara Boxer who submitted a similar bill to the Senate in 2010, that, said “All of our families deserve equal access to health insurance…This bill would help ensure that domestic partners and their families will be able to keep their health coverage if their partner loses their job.”  It marks a major win for LGBTQ communities so that they also in this hard economic time have access to the health insurance benefits provided under the COBRA insurance legislation passed in 1985.

Currently, most same sex partnerships are denied COBRA insurance benefits for spouses, unless they live in a state they allows same sex civil unions and marriages.  The Human Rights Campaign recently also came out in support of this legislation, saying, “In these troubled economic times, social safety-net benefits like COBRA continuation coverage are even more important to American families. LGBTQ people should have the equal ability to maintain those critical benefits for their families during difficult times.”

Your Employer’s Legal Requirements for COBRA Insurance

Posted on: April 7th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Your Employer’s Legal Requirements for COBRA InsuranceIf you recently lost your job or quit your job and are curious about your employer’s requirement according to the COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985), there are two main requirements you should be aware of so you can make sure that your employer is fulfilling their legal obligation.

First, your employer must provide an initial notice in which your rights and obligations in reference to continuing to receive health insurance coverage under COBRA.  This will explain exactly what COBRA insurance looks like for you and what it will take to enroll in COBRA insurance and continue to receive health insurance benefits under COBRA.

Secondly, your employer must provide a notice of qualifying events that explain exactly what the event was that triggered your loss of health insurance coverage.  This could be the voluntarily or involuntarily event that triggered medical insurance loss including quitting, being laid off, or having your hours reduced to a point that you no longer qualify for medical insurance.

If your employer does not satisfactorily provide these two notices, or mishandles the forms in anyway, there is a source for litigation and liability on behalf of the employer and/or health insurance provider.  If you believe these forms have been deficient, not provided, or mishandled in any way, you can contact should contact the Department of Labor and file an official complaint form and/or reach out to an attorney.

COBRA Insurance and Pre-existing Conditions/HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

Posted on: April 6th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

COBRA Insurance and Pre-existing Conditions/HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)In 1996, Congress passed a bill called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA for short, that was passed to protect consumers in four ways.  First, under HIPAA, employers are limited in their ability to exclude health insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition.  Secondly, it provides added opportunities to sign up in a group medical insurance plan if you lose other health insurance coverage or experience particular life events.  Thirdly, under  HIPAA, protects employees, their spouses, and their dependents from discrimination from a health insurance policy due to pre-existing conditions, genetics, and previous claims.  Finally, HIPAA guarantees that certain individuals can renew and have access to medical insurance plans.    Essentially, HIPAA ensures that people with pre-existing health conditions can get health insurance.  So how does HIPAA work with COBRA insurance?  Basically there are five key things that you should know about HIPAA and COBRA insurance or in simpler terms, COBRA insurance and pre-existing conditions.

  • By electing and signing up for COBRA insurance coverage, you can avoid a significant break between medical insurance coverage which would make it more difficult to find a new insurer if you have a pre-existing condition.  For instance, if you know that you will have a 6 month lapse in medical insurance coverage, purchasing COBRA will cover you during that time.
  • COBRA medical insurance coverage will be counted under HIPAA as creditable coverage which will help you qualify in the future.  Creditable coverage allows you to offset pre-existing health conditions exclusion periods for you and your family.
  • Electing continued health insurance coverage under COBRA will allow you to bridge your coverage so that you remain covered during a waiting period or a preexisting condition exclusion period.
  • Your COBRA insurance coverage can be cut off if you have COBRA medical insurance and become covered under a new health insurance plan that is not subject to a pre-existing condition exclusion period.
  • When your COBRA medical insurance coverage ends, you will receive a special enrollment opportunity for you and your family for any new coverage for which you are eligible.  This is not true if you just stop paying the COBRA premiums.

Do I qualify for COBRA insurance if my company closes, goes bankrupt, dissolves?

Posted on: April 5th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Do I qualify for COBRA insurance if my company closes, goes bankrupt, dissolves?Unfortunately under the current COBRA insurance laws, if at anytime your company stops providing health insurance to employees due to closing, bankruptcy, or other reasons, your COBRA insurance continuation will also end.  The law only extends COBRA benefits assuming that the company still is providing health insurance.  When this stops, like if a company closes, you can no longer keep that insurance plan with COBRA.  You will not, as you likely expected be covered for the entire 18 months.  You health insurance will end at the same time it does for all employees.

If you learn that your company is closing and therefore know that COBRA insurance will no longer be an option for you, it is important to begin to explore other health insurance options.  You will want to explore all different types of insurance options to meet your needs and your family’s needs including individual health insurance, family health insurance, catastrophic health insurance, short term health insurance, and government sponsored health insurance options.

One additional thing you may want to consider if you find out your company is closing, is if the current health insurance provider is going to offer any kind of health insurance continuation option.  Sometimes in these unfortunate situations, health insurance companies will offer a deal to continue your health insurance coverage with them at a discounted rate.  You would likely qualify for this as someone receiving COBRA insurance benefits with the insurer.

Key Questions to Ask Your Employer About COBRA Insurance When You Quit

Posted on: April 4th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Key Questions to Ask Your Employer About COBRA Insurance When You QuitMany people don’t realize that you are eligible for COBRA Insurance benefits and to maintain your health insurance under the COBRA insurance law whether you are laid off from your job or if you quit.  The law covers any voluntarily or involuntarily loss of employment as long as there is no evidence of gross misconduct.  So if you quit, what should you be asking your employer when you turn in your resignation and during your final days on the job.  There are some important questions to ask to ensure you have the option to continue your health insurance coverage under COBRA

1.  What is the full cost of my current medical insurance premium?

For many people one of the most important things they need to know  to determine if they will in fact enroll in COBRA  insurance to maintain their health insurance is the cost.  And surprisingly most people could not actually tell you how much they or their company pays for their health insurance plan.  It is important to ask your company what the exact cost of health insurance is, meaning the full premium cost.  Once you know that amount, you can calculate what your monthly cost would be with COBRA insurance.  It will be that amount plus a 2% administration fee under the federal law.

2.  Are you eligible for federal or state run COBRA insurance?

Since you must meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for COBRA insurance continuation at the federal level, and state level if your state also offers COBRA insurance, you want to ask your employer if you qualify.  They are required by state to know this information and provide it to you.  Generally, at the federal level companies who insure 20 people or more (or their part time equivalent) will be eligible for COBRA continuation insurance and at the state level many times it is companies who insure between 2-19 employees or their part time equivalents.

3.  Does your company offer any COBRA insurance alternatives or health insurance continuation options?

Some health insurance plans and some companies offer their own equivalent to COBRA insurance which many times is significantly cheaper than COBRA.  The terms themselves may differ as many the length of coverage, but your company or health insurance company, may offer their own continuation plan.  This is especially true if you are laid off and there is a contractual obligation for the company to pay their percentage of the premium through the length of your contract.  With that said, some companies offer it on their own as a part of severance packages or as good will.

4.  Is the company planning on changing the health insurance policy or dropping health insurance in the near future?

Under the current COBRA insurance law, you will still be eligible for COBRA insurance if your company changes it’s health insurance plan or policy, but you will be responsible for any additional costs under that change.  That means, if the company decided to go with a more expensive provider, you will be responsible under COBRA to pay the increased rate.  It also means if the plan changes, it will also change for you.  This can be important to consider if you are calculating costs or considering alternate plans.  If your company is planning on dropping health insurance altogether in the near future, that unfortunately means that you will also lose your COBRA insurance continuation.  If the company envisions that will happen soon, you may be better off finding a new medical insurance provider from the start.

How Much Does COBRA Insurance Cost? Three Examples

Posted on: April 3rd, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

How Much Does COBRA Insurance Cost?  Three ExamplesThe cost of COBRA insurance is based on your current health insurance premium, both your cost and the cost your company subsidizes or pays, plus a 2% administration fee under the COBRA insurance federal law.  For many people this will be substantially more than they are used to pay since most employers pay for anywhere between 40%-100% of health insurance costs depending on the company.  So what does it really cost, let’s look at three examples.

Example 1:  Single Man, PPO, COBRA Monthly Cost:  $501.27

Henry P. was a single man laid off from his job as a medical sales man.  Henry had a PPO health insurance plan for himself.  His monthly cost while working was 30% of the premium which was $115.60.  He found that amount by looking at his most recent payment stub.  His employer covered 70% of the cost of his health insurance plan, which was $385.67.  Therefore his total medical insurance cost was $501.27 per month.  Under COBRA he would be responsible for the entire amount plus a 2% administration cost, so under COBRA insurance his total monthly premium would be $511.29.

Example 2:  Family of 4, HMO, COBRA Monthly Cost, $1452.48

Luisa B. recently quit her job as a marketing executive and her HMO health insurance plan was covering her and her 3 children.  Under the plan at her former employer, she paid 50% of the health insurance premium which amounted to $712.  Her employer subsidized the other 50% of the cost, also $712, making her total health insurance cost $1424.  She will be responsible under COBRA to pay that amount plus the 2% COBRA insurance administration cost, which amounts to $1452.48 per month to continue to maintain her health insurance under COBRA for her family.  Luisa did not elect to sign up for COBRA until the end of the 60 day window, which means her first payment she will have to pay for both months retroactively, amounting to an initial payment of $2904.96, and then $1452.48 for the length of her COBRA health insurance coverage.

Example 3: Married Couple, Small Company, State Sponsored COBRA Cost: $669.05

Sarah M. worked at a small internet company with only 12 employees, meaning she was not eligible for federal COBRA insurance continuation.  However, Sarah M. was lucky enough to work in a state that offers a mini-COBRA plan that she can elect for her husband and herself.  Under the state’s COBRA plan, Sarah M. is responsible for the entire premium for her premium health plan plus a 11% administration fee.  Under her former plan, Sarah was responsible for 25% ($120.55) of the health insurance cost and her employer covered the other 75%. (482.20).  This means her total cost under COBRA insurance will be the entire premium covered by her and her employer ($602.75) plus the 11% administration fee charged by her state ($66.30) which amounts to a COBRA insurance premium cost of $669.05.

Could Henry, Luisa, and Sarah Saved Money by Looking At Other Health Insurance Options? Yes!

Many people simply believe that COBRA insurance is the best option because they have heard there is no way they can get coverage that is as good through a private company.  That is simply not true for most people.  Given that group health insurance plans at employers cover both healthy and (many) unhealthy people, the rates are generally much higher than what a generally healthy person could get on their own.  In fact, most people find that they can save over 65% by using a private plan.

Want to find out if you can save money and still get great coverage?  Get a quote using the form below.  It is free, only take a few minutes, and there is absolutely no obligation to sign up for anything.  Instead it will give you multiple options for insuring yourself or your family, likely at a huge savings.

Minimizing COBRA Costs for Short Term Unemployment

Posted on: April 2nd, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Minimizing COBRA Costs for Short Term UnemploymentAre you going to immediately begin looking for new employment after losing your job or quitting your job?  If so, signing up for COBRA insurance immediately may not be the best option for you.  Under the current COBRA legislation you have 60 days or 2 months to determine if you would like to elect COBRA insurance coverage.  Then, if you decide to continue your medical insurance under COBRA, your health insurance will be retroactive back to the day you lost your job.  So what does this mean for you?  This means two critical things that could dramatically reduce your costs within those first 60 days.

First, this means that if you do find employment before the end of the 60 day term and will have health insurance start before a lapse in coverage begins, you can avoid paying for two months under COBRA which could cost you up to $1000/month.  If you do not, no harm is done and you can sign up at the end of the 60 day election window for COBRA and continue your insurance.

Secondly, this means that if you are planning to wait until the end of the window to elect COBRA medical insurance coverage in hopes that you will find a job, and end up needing medical care before the new insurance counts, as long as you elect COBRA and pay the COBRA premiums before the election window ends, you will be covered for those medical expenses.  COBRA insurance is retroactive in that way so anything that happens within the 60 days regardless of whether or not you have yet to elect COBRA will be covered as long as you complete the election form and pay the premiums for the two months.

Therefore, if you are fairly certain that you will find employment or need extra time to determine your next medical insurance option, you do not need to worry about any medical costs that arise in the 60 d ay window because you can always decide to elect coverage.  As long as you have enough money to pay the retroactive premiums (2 months) your expenses will be covered by the insurer.

 

Same-Sex Couples and Right to COBRA Insurance

Posted on: April 1st, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Same-Sex Couples and Right to COBRA InsuranceUnder the current laws, most same sex couples do not have the right to COBRA insurance unless the state in which they live allows them to be married in a same sex civil union. Therefore only states that recognize same sex marriage/civil unions would cover the same sex partner under the federal COBRA law which requires that the qualifying dependent is a spouse.   Some states that currently allow same sex couples to continue health insurance under COBRA insurance laws for the former employee and the spouse are Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.

Since the COBRA insurance law requires that the qualifying beneficiary actually be a spouse, this means in many cases that a domestic partner will not be allowed to continue to receive COBRA insurance under the current law.  This applies to same sex domestic partners and heterosexual domestic partners.  With that said, some more progressive states offer state run COBRA insurance plans to same sex partners who are domestic partners, as do some companies.  It is important if you are losing or quitting your job and part of a same sex partnership that you inquire about your right to maintain health insurance benefits under the COBRA law with the federal or state government, or similar run company program.

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