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Losing my dependent status – what are my options?

Posted on: November 7th, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Dear COBRA Insurance Benefits –

I am on the verge of losing my dependent status and have no idea what to do for health insurance. I have been on my parent’s insurance plan forever and am currently unemployed so there is no option for insurance from a company. The plan I have with them is really comprehensive, it seems like everything is included. But with that said I hardly ever use anything unless I randomly catch something. I would say I have used the coverage probably once in the last three years. I am pretty healthy in general.

With that said I am not willing to totally give up all coverage and cross my fingers that nothing happens. I want to have some type of coverage so that I am protected. What options should I be considering? Is COBRA a good choice?

Thanks

Dear No Longer A Child

Losing your dependent status can be a tricky time and it is hard to know what type of plan to sign up for. The good thing is that you are one step ahead of the pack since you are already thinking about your health insurance and know how important it is to keep some sort of plan in place. Based on what you shared, here are some potential options for you ranging from least expensive to most expensive.

  • Catastrophic or High Deductible Insurance: This is going to be the least expensive option when it comes to health insurance but will also provide the least amount of coverage. A catastrophic plan and high deductible plan are similar and basically will only cover emergency medical needs. For any other medical need you will need to pay out of pocket for the treatment. However it does ensure you are safe in case of anything serious and can be very affordable, starting at around $40 monthly.
  • Private Individual Insurance Plan: The next option if you want more comprehensive coverage will be a private individual policy. These plans more closely resemble regular employer sponsored plans and can be very affordable for someone who is young and healthy. In fact they start at around $100 monthly and can include pretty comprehensive coverage.
  • COBRA Insurance: Finally the last option, but definitely most expensive, is COBRA. With COBRA you would be able to continue to use the same health insurance plan you have with your parents for up to 36 months. The catch is that you must pay the entire premium plus 2% to keep the plan. On average this runs about $400 or more monthly. To find out exactly how much COBRA would cost for you, it is necessary to contact the plan administrator and tell them you are interested in signing up for COBRA and need to know the costs. Likely this will trigger them to send you an enrollment letter which will state the exact cost of the plan.

Keeping an Ex-Spouse on Your Health Insurnace

Posted on: November 2nd, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

COBRA and divorce

Recently there has been a lot of press here in California about the intricacies of the laws and policies around divorce and health insurance. It all started when the ex-spouse of a city employee in Belmont decided to sue the town for not informing him he had the option to stay on his ex-wife’s health insurance plan. Instead this man signed up for COBRA insurance and ended up paying $524 a month for his coverage, which cost him over $18,000 in the long run. He is hoping to recuperate the difference in cost between the two plans and likely will win. Someone won a similar case just two years ago.

So what does that mean for you? Well it depends on the policy that your ex-spouse has. The first thing to do – ASK. Call the health insurance company or Human Assets department of your ex-spouse’s company and ask if there is an option in the insurance policy to cover spouses after divorce. This isn’t common, but some companies do offer such plans. And if the company does offer it, immediately find out how much it costs. Some companies will continue to subsidize the cost, but some will not. If they will not then you will pay basically the same as you would for COBRA and perhaps more than for a private plan.

Another rising trend among people getting divorced but concerned about health insurance is actually to stay married or only legally separate depending on the state they live in. For people with expensive medical needs or preexisting conditions, health insurance can be a major concern during divorce. So more and more people are staying married in amicable separations so that one spouse can continue to receive the medical care they need. While this normally begins as a temporary situation, many couples report that they continue like this for years to avoid astronomical medical and insurance bills, as well as maintain the exact same level of care and treatment.

Going to be laid off and worried about health insurance?

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

cobra-insurance-copayments

Many times people are surprised by job loss and don’t have the time to plan their next move. But for some people they know when job loss is coming and have time to plan ahead. It is important for people in this situation to have a strong plan in place for their health insurance coverage before they lose their jobs. Make sure to take these steps before the last day of your health insurance coverage.

Preparing for Insurance Loss

  • Know Your Health Insurance End Date: This may seem like an obvious step but many people forget to find out exactly when their employer health coverage will end. Depending on your company and its policies, your insurance could end the last day of your employment, the last day of the health plan billing cycle, or you could have a grace period of 2-8 weeks provided by your employer. Knowing this day is critical so you understand when to start your new plan.
  • Negotiate Your Benefits Package: Many people negotiate benefits packages when they are accepting a new job, but you should also try to negotiate when you are losing your job. Many companies have the ability to offer severance or job loss packages that may include health benefits. This could include the company paying your COBRA insurance costs for weeks or months after losing your job. Always ask about the possibilities – there is nothing to lose.
  • Know Your COBRA Insurance Options: The first step in determining what insurance plan you will use after job loss is finding out if you qualify for COBRA insurance and how much it will cost. For people who do qualify for either a state or federal COBRA plan, this could be a viable option for health insurance coverage.
  • Consider Private Insurance: In addition to finding out if you qualify for COBRA, you should also fully explore your options for private health insurance. Private health insurance plans can usually offer a lower cost option to COBRA and for people who are generally healthy, almost the same coverage. You can get a free quote when you explore plans which can help you price out plans and understand your options.
  • Explore a Spouse’s Plan: Find out if you qualify for your spouse’s plan and what kind of coverage it offers. Since employers subsidize so much of health insurance costs, if your spouses has a plan it can offer the most cost effective option. However always make sure to inquire about the open enrollment date and when new participants can be added to the plan. Some companies have very strict policies and spouses can only be added during open enrollment once per month.
  • Consider Government Plans: The last thing to explore is if you or any family members can qualify for a government or community plan that is low cost. In most states children are eligible for reduced cost health care. Having children on a state plan can significantly reduce the overall costs for the family. Additionally depending on your health condition and age, you may qualify for other plans in your state.

COBRA Health Insurance Laws

Posted on: June 13th, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Many of the questions we receive on a daily basis are regarding the current COBRA health insurance laws and how they affect people who have been laid off, quit their job, or retired from their job. The COBRA insurance laws have actually not changed much since they were passed in 1986 and still serve the same purpose to protect individuals and families from suddenly being without health insurance.

Under the COBRA health insurance laws people who lose, quit, or retire from their job without the presence of gross misconduct AND who meet certain government requirements can elect to continue the exact same health insurance plan with COBRA. This benefit extends to their family members as well. However the main difficulty for most people with the COBRA laws are that you are required to pay the entire cost of the health insurance plan. Since most employers pay anywhere between 50%-90% of the cost, this is a significant expense especially for someone who has just lost their job.

The three conditions that the government sets out in the law are known as qualifying plan, qualifying event, and qualifying beneficiaries. Qualifying plan refers to the type of health insurance plan the person had when they had a job. In most cases any plan that covered 20 full time employees will be eligible for federal COBRA laws. The second requirement, qualifying event, is how the person lost their insurance coverage. For employees this can be quitting, retiring, or losing their job without gross misconduct. For family members this could be that the covered employee lost, quit, or retired from their job, due to a legal separation or divorce, or because a dependent loses their dependent status. The final requirement, qualifying beneficiaries, is who else is eligible for coverage. In most cases anyone who was covered under the health plan can continued to be covered with COBRA insurance laws.

Am I able to stay on my ex’s health insurance plan after we get divorced?

Posted on: June 11th, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Doctor

Anyone going through a divorce knows just how tricky it can be to navigate the waters. Not only is there substantial emotional difficulty regarding divorce but on top of that is all the legal, financial, and healthcare decisions that emerge. One of the most common questions we here is, “Can I stay on my ex’s health insurance plan after divorce?” The answer to this question is actually Yes and No.

Let’s start with the Yes. If you ex was on a health insurance plan that covered at least 20 full time employees, then you likely can elect COBRA insurance and keep your ex spouses’ plan for up to 36 months in most cases. Divorce is considered a qualifying event under COBRA so you have the right to sign up. The tricky side of COBRA though is that you are required to pay the entire premium, which is usually between 50-90% higher than what you are used to.

Now onto the No. COBRA insurance is only a temporary solution to health insurance after divorce. Not only will it run out at some point, it is extremely expensive. Moreover if you develop a condition while on COBRA it may disqualify you from future health insurance policies. Your best bet is to get your own health insurance as soon as possible. This can be done through your employer if available. If not, look into private health insurance. It can be surprisingly affordable. You can begin looking for private health insurance by getting free quotes and comparing plans.

Lost Your Job? Are You Considering COBRA Insurance?

Posted on: May 24th, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Stethoscope and Pen

For people who lost their job or were laid off, COBRA insurance is usually an option to continue health care for the employee and their family.

In most cases if your former health insurance plan covered 20 employees or more and the company is still in business, you can qualify for COBRA insurance under the 1986 federal law. This coverage lasts for 18 months in most cases and came about to protect people in your situation from suddenly going without health insurance coverage.

According to the federal COBRA law, when you are laid off your employer has 14 days to notify you in writing about your rights under COBRA. From there, you have 60 days to decide if you want to enroll in the coverage. If you do not sign up within that 60 day period or pay the premium, you will lose the right to coverage.

COBRA Insurance and Health Reform

In March of 2012, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress to help ensure that more Americans have access to affordable health insurance and ensure people can actually get coverage. Under this law in 2014 there will be state run health insurance exchanges that people can use to purchase affordable health care. This law will not change COBRA insurance coverage in anyway, but it will likely decrease the amount of people who choose to use COBRA insurance.

The Cost of COBRA Insurance

With COBRA you get the exact same coverage that you had with your employer but the main difference is that you are responsible for paying the entire premium plus a 2% administration fee. This cost for most people is very expensive and normally runs over $1000/month for families. This is because most employers pay for up to 90% of the health insurance costs of their employees.

What Can I Do if COBRA Insurance is Too Expensive?

Most people can’t afford COBRA insurance. It is very expensive and most people who need it just got laid off so that kind of expense is unimaginable. According to some statistics COBRA insurance can eat up 60-70% of someone’s unemployment check leaving almost no room for other expenses. However luckily there are other options to explore if you can’t afford COBRA insurance. If you can’t afford COBRA insurance you should explore state and federal insurance programs like Medicaid and CHIP, private insurance which is normally much less expensive (you can get a quote below), and community health programs that provide free and reduced cost care.

How Many Days Do I Have to Work to Qualify for COBRA insurance?

Posted on: April 30th, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

reduce cobra insurance costsDear COBRA Insurance Benefits,

I recently got a new job, but found out that I am going to have to leave the job due to family issues. However, I really need the health insurance from the new job and will need to continue it on COBRA since my husband has a pretty serious health condition. I have only worked there for 30 days and am curious about how long I need to work at my company to qualify for COBRA insurance? Is there a minimum amount of time? Could I get COBRA insurance already? Thanks.

In Need of COBRA Insurance

This is a great question and actually one that many people have recently emailed us about. The answer is actually surprisingly simple. If you are currently getting health insurance from your company and meet the COBRA insurance requirements, then you qualify for COBRA insurance. That applies to both your coverage and your family’s COBRA coverage assuming you meet the requirements.

So what if you don’t currently get health insurance from your company? Then you are not going to be able to get COBRA insurance yet. Many companies have between a 30-90 day window before health insurance starts for a new employee. If you are still in that window then either you have to wait until your health insurance starts or will not qualify for COBRA.

California COBRA Insurance – Cal COBRA Insurance

Posted on: April 2nd, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Stethoscope and Pen

Knowing the difficulty of job loss and health insurance, following the federal government’s lead, California created it’s own mini COBRA insurance plan known as California COBRA insurance, or Cal-COBRA insurance. This plan, much like federal COBRA insurance, was set up to make sure people didn’t suddenly go without health insurance after they quit, lost, or retired from their job. In addition the law protected people losing health insurance from divorce or from losing dependent status as well. Under both the federal and Cal COBRA insurance laws, people have the option to continue to use their employer sponsored health plan for up to 18 months in most cases if they meet the requirements in the law. That means that they could keep the exact same doctors, prescription plans, co-pays, and deductibles. The catch? Under COBRA and Cal-COBRA, the individual or family who signs up for COBRA is responsible for paying the entire premium without any subsidy from the employer. In addition, they also must pay a 2% administration fee.

Understanding Federal COBRA Insurance

Under the federal COBRA insurance bill, in order to qualify for COBRA insurance you must meet three requirements known as qualifying plan, qualifying event, and qualifying beneficiaries. The qualifying plan refers to the type of health insurance plan that you had while you were employed. For federal COBRA insurance, this plan must have covered at least 20 employees to be eligible. The second requirement, known as qualifying event, refers to the way that you lost health insurance coverage. In most cases if you lost, quit, or retired from your job and there was not gross misconduct you will qualify. This also includes spouses who are losing coverage due to divorce and children who are losing health insurance due to losing dependent status. The final criteria, qualifying beneficiaries, refers to who is able to elect COBRA insurance. In most instances anyone who was on the health insurance plan will be able to be on COBRA insurance.

Understanding Cal COBRA Insurance

Cal COBRA was created to make sure that more people in the state of California could qualify for COBRA insurance if they wanted it. Essentially what the Cal COBRA law does is extend the benefits to people working at companies with between 2-19 employees. It also at times extends beyond typical COBRA insurance coverage and may last up to 36 months. Like federal COBRA insurance, an individual or family must pay the entire cost of the health insurance plan plus a 2% administration fee to keep coverage.

Cheaper Options to COBRA Insurance and Cal-COBRA

Since COBRA insurance can be so expensive, usually around $1000 for a family of four, it is important to consider other health insurance plans that may be more affordable. This is especially true if you and your family are relatively healthy. Many people find by looking at private health insurance cost they can save up to $600 a month on their health insurance costs. The easiest way to find out what you might qualify for – get a free health insurance quote online and explore your options. It will show you what plans you are eligible for and their costs.

Arkansas COBRA Insurance

Posted on: March 31st, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Arkansas COBRA Insurance

For anyone who recently lost, quit, or even retired from their job figuring out what to do next for health insurance can be a tricky decision. Moreover, COBRA insurance legislation is confusing and many times it is hard to understand what options are out there. Understanding federal COBRA insurance, Arkansas COBRA insurance, and private health insurance plans is important so that you can make a decision for your family’s health insurance and budget.

Option 1: Federal COBRA Insurance, Cost for a Family: $1000+

The first option for individuals or families looking for health insurance coverage after job loss or retirement is COBRA insurance if they meet the federal requirements. Under the federal requirements most people who worked at a company with at least 20 employees on their health insurance plan will be eligible as long as they didn’t lose their job due to gross misconduct. Under the federal COBRA insurance plan you can keep the exact same health insurance plan that you had with your employer but you must pay the full cost for it. The full cost is what you normally contributed to your health insurance plan plus anything your employer paid. For most people this is between 60-90% of the health insurance cost. On top of paying the entire premium, you also must pay a 2% administration fee. For most families this ends up being $1000 or more monthly.

Under COBRA insurance you keep the exact same health insurance plan you had when you were employed for up to 18 months in most cases. It is meant to help you in the interim and make sure you do not go without health insurance. The coverage extends to your family and other dependents who were on your health insurance plan. Furthermore it can also extend to people losing insurance due to divorce or adult children losing coverage due to age.

Option 2: Arkansas COBRA Insurance, Cost for a Family: $1000+

The second option for someone in need of health insurance after job loss is Arkansas COBRA insurance. The state of Arkansas created its own COBRA insurance program for people who don’t qualify for the federal plan. The cost of Arkansas COBRA insurance is just about the same as federal COBRA because you will be responsible for the entire premium on your own. In addition there is a 2% administration fee. Arkansas COBRA insurance normally allows you to keep your employer sponsored health insurance plan for up to 18 months.

Option 3: Private Family Insurance Plan, Cost for a Family: $400+

The last and most affordable option in most cases is choosing a private individual or family health insurance plans. These plans are offered by private companies and normally are much less expensive than COBRA for similar coverage. The reason these plans can be so much cheaper is because they are only covering your family, not everyone you work with. If you are healthy that means a lower risk for the insurance company and therefore a lower rate. Most people find they can save over $600 a month by choosing a private health insurance plan. To find out what your options might be, you can get a free health insurance quote.

Arizona COBRA Insurance

Posted on: March 26th, 2012 by Cobra Insurance Guide

For anyone living in Arizona who recently quit, lost, or even retired from their job; likely you are thinking about COBRA insurance and what role it could potentially play in your health care future. At the same time, it is likely that you are also trying to understand all your options and find the best one for you and your family. Arizona COBRA insurance may be the best option for that, but there may be other options as well that can provide similar insurance at a much lower cost.

Option 1: Federal COBRA Insurance or Arizona COBRA Insurance

Most people begin their health insurance search by considering COBRA insurance. This makes sense because it is the easiest health insurance option for most people if they qualify. Under COBRA insurance most people who work at companies with 20 or more employees, and who weren’t fired for gross misconduct, will qualify for COBRA health insurance coverage. With COBRA, the employee and their family members are able to keep the exact same health plan for a time normally up to 18 months. The major drawback to COBRA coverage is that the employee must pay for the full cost of health insurance. In most cases this is over $1000 monthly for a family of four. The cost of COBRA is that high because the employer no longer contributes and pays for some of the cost of health insurance.

In some states there are also state sponsored COBRA insurance programs for people who work at smaller companies and want COBRA. Unfortunately the state of Arizona currently does not offer an Arizona COBRA insurance plan. That means if you don’t qualify under the federal plan for COBRA, you will need to seek out alternative insurance.

Option 2: Private Health Insurance

The second option that you should consider when thinking about health insurance is private health insurance. Many people shy away from private health insurance and just sign up for COBRA because they think the price will be too high. However for healthy individuals and families, private health insurance can be much less expensive than COBRA. In fact, a healthy family of four on average saves over $600 monthly by using a private health insurance plan. To learn more about private health insurance, get a free quote and explore the available plans in your area.

The most comprehensive health insurance plans offered by companies will be individual and family plans. In addition there are also very affordable plans for people who only want to be covered for emergencies. These plans are normally known as catastrophic health insurance or high deductible health insurance. They can start as long as about $50 monthly but only cover emergencies.

Option 3: State Sponsored Health Insurance

The last place to look for health insurance after job loss is to explore government sponsored health insurance in Arizona or offered through the federal government. Many times children will qualify for these plan as well seniors. Depending on your income there may be a program available that will offer free or reduced health insurance to you and your family.

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