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State COBRA Mini Plans

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

State COBRA InsuranceMany people do not know that if they do not qualify for federal COBRA insurance, they may still qualify for a state run COBRA insurance plan, usually known as mini COBRA insurance.  These plans are meant to help people and usually cover people who work at smaller companies with between 2-19 employees.  They also sometimes extend benefits after COBRA insurance has run out.  The following states offer mini COBRA insurance programs:

State Length of COBRA in months
Arkansas 4
California 36
Colorado 18
Connecticut 36
Iowa 9
Kansas 6
Kentucky 18
Louisiana 12
Maine 12
Maryland 18
Massachusetts 36
Florida 29
Georgia 3
Minnesota 36
Mississippi 12
Missouri 9
Nebraska 12
Nevada 36
New Hampshire 36
New Jersey 36
New York 36
North Carolina 18
North Dakota 36
Ohio 6
Oklahoma 6
Oregon 6
Rhode Island 18
South Carolina 6
South Dakota 36
Tennessee 15
Utah 6
Vermont 12
West Virginia 18
Wisconsin 18
Wyoming 12

How Does COBRA Insurance Work?

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

COBRA Insurance and RetirementMany people have heard of COBRA insurance but few people actually know how it works.  Essentially COBRA insurance works by allowing someone to choose to keep their employer’s health insurance plan after leaving a job, losing a job, or quitting a job.  It was established to help families and make sure they they didn’t suddenly lose health insurance if someone lost their job.  Under the current federal COBRA insurance regulations, most people who lose or quit their job and work for a company with at least 20 employees who receive health insurance will qualify for COBRA.  This benefit also extends of family members.

Once you sign up and elect COBRA insurance, it works just like your prior health insurance plan did since it is the exact same plan.  You can visit the same doctors, will have the same co-payments and deductibles, and same prescription expenses.  The main difference that you will see with COBRA is that you will now have to pay the entire cost of the insurance plus a 2% administration fee.  For many people this will be 50-75% more than what they paid when they were employed.  The COBRA insurance coverage lasts for 18 months in most circumstances.

COBRA Health Insurance Gross Misconduct

Posted on: October 26th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Question Gross MisconductMany people know that COBRA health insurance is an option if you are laid off from your job or quit your job, but what if you were fired?  Well in most cases that probably depends on what you were fired for.  Under the federal COBRA insurance laws, employees are entitled to COBRA insurance under the qualifying event if they lost their job for any reason that isn’t gross misconduct.  So what is gross misconduct.  According to the courts, gross misconduct is :  Acts of gross misconduct are intentional, wanton, willful, deliberate, reckless, or in deliberate indifference to an employer’s interest.  They do not have to be criminal acts and can actually happen in the workplace or away from the workplace.  Some examples from court cases that have involved gross misconduct and COBRA insurance are:

  • Hitting another employee on the job
  • Misappropriating funds
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Repeatedly not performing the job as instructed
  • Theft of any kind

With that said, according to the Department of Labor’s website, “Generally, it can be assumed that being fired for most ordinary reasons, such as excessive absences or generally poor performance, does not amount to “gross misconduct.” ”

If you are fired and your employer is not entitling you to COBRA insurance due to gross misconduct, you should receive a Notice of Unavailability of COBRA Coverage that explains why you are not eligible.  You will be able to appeal that notice if you do not agree with the terms that it lays out.

COBRA Insurance and Open Enrollment

Posted on: October 14th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

People who are covered with COBRA insurance usually have major questions arise during open enrollment times with their health insurance plan.  However, since under COBRA insurance you are simply continuing the exact same plan, open enrollment will be the exact same as it was when you were employed.

That means that during open enrollment with COBRA health insurance you will be able to change your plan details, such as switching from a PPO to HMO to reduce costs, add new beneficiaries, and make any other changes you desire.  One important thing to consider during open enrollment is looking at ways you can reduce costs.  This may include downgrading your plan, increasing your deductible, dropping certain enrollees, dropping vision or dental, or other things that reduce the cost of your insurance.

COBRA Insurance and Disability

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

Stethoscope and PenWe have received lots of questions about how COBRA insurance and disability work together.  Basically there are a few key factors that are important to know when thinking about COBRA insurance and disability.  First, under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), there is a possibility to extend COBRA insurance benefits for an additional 11 months if you become disabled.  However, this disability has to happen within the first 60 days of COBRA insurance coverage.  This will increase the total COBRA term length to 29 months. Additionally, under HIPAA, both you and anyone else covered on your COBRA health insurance plan can extend coverage for that 11 months.  That means your spouse, children, and any other dependents will also be able to stay on COBRA for 29 months.

If you believe you qualify under HIPAA for this COBRA insurance with disability extension, you should contact your plan administrator as soon as possible.  This must be no later than 30 days after the law no longer qualifies you as disabled.

COBRA Insurance and Retiring Early

Posted on: September 28th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

People holding handsMany people these days are considering early retirement as they contemplate their future.  In determining if you are financially able to retire early, there is one key expense that many people forgot to include when they calculate their budget and monetary needs – health insurance.  Given that health insurance is extremely expensive if you do not yet qualify for Medicare, this can be a deal breaker when making the decision to retire early.

So what options do you have for health insurance if you are considering early retirement?  Essentially there are three options.  First, is Medicare.  If you qualify, Medicare is definitely the most affordable option.  Your second option is COBRA health insurance.  You can continue to keep your health insurance from your employer when you retire for 18 months.  Under COBRA insurance you will have to pay the full premium.  The last option – a private plan.

Small Business Owners: Tip for Choosing Health Insurance

Posted on: September 26th, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Nurse and computerQuitting your job and deciding to open your own small business can be a very exciting time for many.  Although many people who follow this path can elect to have COBRA health insurance for the first 18 months, many are faced with a difficult health insurance decision when COBRA ends.  If you are someone in this position, follow these 5 tips to choose the best health insurance for you.

1.  Understand your Health Insurance Options:  The most important thing to starting any health insurance search is understanding your options in full.  Make sure to explore both private and government sponsored programs.  There is a good chance that you may qualify for a state run program.  In addition explore comprehensive coverage as well as high deductible and short term coverage.  Note down all the options, their prices, and the coverage.  Then think through each based on your health needs and budget.

2.  Consider Affiliating Yourself with a Group: Many organizations offer the benefits of group health insurance without needing an employer offered plan.  Look into alumni organizations, industry organizations, and more to find out what group health insurance they offer.  It may be cheaper than going out on your on.

3.  Shop Around to Understand Different Plans:  It is always important to look at multiple plans and the easiest way to do so is through online sites with simple forms to complete.  The most popular are eHealthInsurance, HealthPlanOne and InsureMonkey.  You can also use governmental and state sites to explore trusted plans.

4.  Factor in the Health Insurance Tax Deduction: When you are self employed you are allowed to deduct your health insurance costs from your income.  This is considered an above the line deduction.

5.  Get Quotes for Multiple Plans:  Finally, get quotes and consider multiple scenarios using those quotes.  Imagine the cost if you needed to visit the doctor, get a prescription medication, etc.  Cost out each option to understand the full cost of choosing that insurance plan.

How to Find Health Insurance When COBRA Runs Out?

Posted on: September 22nd, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

Nurse and PatientA reader recently wrote to us wondering what he should do when his COBRA insurance runs out.  Him and his wife have been on COBRA insurance for the last 17 months and have about 30 days to make a plan for when their insurance stops.  They are both in their fifties and they have a daughter for is 24 who is also on their health insurance plan with COBRA.

Many people find themselves in this situation and making a decision about what avenue to pursue can be a difficult one. The major sticking point for this family is whether or not anyone in their family has serious medical needs or a preexisting condition.  If so, a comprehensive private plan is probably the only way to go for those with preexisting conditions.  They will likely need to apply to multiple providers to find a health insurance plan who accepts them and that they can afford.

If no one in the family has a major medical need or preexisting condition, there are more options.  For a comprehensive plan, a private insurance provider will still be the way to go.  However, they could also consider short term, catastrophic, and indemnity plans that are much cheaper.  These plans however are very limited and often have very strict guidelines for what is covered.

When To Consider COBRA Health Insurance Alternatives

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

COBRA insurance is a great health care option for many, however it definitely isn’t always the most affordable or most strategic choice depending on your circumstances.  The following list outlines some reasons you may not want to sign up for COBRA insurance.

1.  You are in good health:  If you are in good health, you may be able to find a less costly health insurance alternative to COBRA without losing too much coverage.  Explore alternative plans and research different insurance options if you are relatively young and in good health.

2.  You are on a tight budget:  The fact is that COBRA insurance is very expensive for most families to keep and it is like there are more cost effective insurance plans out there.  Explore other options if you are on a tight budget.  You may have to accept a more strict health insurance plan but can save lots of money.

3.  You qualify for state or federal health insurance:  Always make sure to check to see if you qualify for any state or federal health insurance plans before enrolling in COBRA.  This could include plans for children and/or governmental health insurance plans for veterans and others.  These plans will be much more cost effective.

4.  You qualify for Medicare:  If you can sign up for Medicare, it is a much cheaper option to COBRA health insurance.  You can still sign up for COBRA insurance to be  a secondary plan but it will come at a high cost.

5.  You believe you will have another job with insurance soon:  If you believe you will be employed soon, especially within 60 days, you may be able to wait.  COBRA insurance can be retro-activated 60 days past the last day of your coverage, which means if you have any medical emergencies during that time, you can just sign up for COBRA and be covered.


How to Qualify for 36 Months of COBRA Insurance

Posted on: July 22nd, 2011 by Cobra Insurance Guide

DoctorAlthough for most people COBRA insurance coverage will only last 18 months, there  are some situations where COBRA health insurance can actually extend beyond the typical 18 months.  Knowing what these circumstances are can save you and your family from having to switch insurers or experiencing a lapse in health insurance coverage.

1.  A Second Qualifying Event:  Under the federal COBRA insurance laws, there are certain events, known as a Secondary Qualifying Event” that will extend COBRA insurance coverage for an additional 18 months to 36 months in total.  The downside to this law is that it almost only extends to dependents and spouses and not to the former employee.  If the formerly covered employee becomes entitled to Medicare, becomes divorced or separated from a spouse covered on the COBRA plan, or the formerly covered employee dies, their dependents/spouses are able to have health insurance under COBRA insurance plans.  Also if a dependent child covered under COBRA loses their dependent status, they can qualify for an additional 18 months of COBRA health insurance coverage.

2.  State Sponsored COBRA Insurance:  Many states offer their own COBRA insurance programs normally known as mini COBRA plans.  In some states, these plans offer an additional 18 months of coverage to eligible state recipients and their dependents.  Learn if your state offers state sponsored COBRA insurance here.

As always, before you decide to extend your COBRA insurance coverage for an additional 18 months you should always consider alternatives to make sure you have the right coverage at the right price.

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