Thanks to Suzanne Thomas, senior PR coordinator of eHealth Inc., who submitted this information to one of our members.
Here are some tips to ride out unemployment while keeping your health insurance:
First, check to see if you can get on your spouse’s employer plan. Learn how much, if any, the employee share of the premium would increase if you join the plan.
If you have either lost or left your job and are offered COBRA continuation coverage (the same plan you had with your employer, but now you pay both the employer and employee contributions), learn exactly how much your COBRA premiums will cost each month, and exactly what the benefits are. COBRA often provides very comprehensive benefits to satisfy a broad audience, so think about which benefits you really need. Note that COBRA can provide important protection for people who have pre-existing medical conditions that may prevent them from getting approved for a new health insurance plan on their own.
If you are in relatively good health and don’t have any pre-existing conditions, you may be able to find less expensive options to COBRA. In fact, the average COBRA premium costs 60% more than for customers who found comparable individual coverage on-line. (The average COBRA premium = $400/month individual, $1078/month family. The average individual plan througheHealthInsurance = $158/month individual, $366 month/family.)
Before you decide to apply for a plan online, check with your doctor. Individual plans are subject to underwriting for pre-existing conditions. You should carefully consider COBRA coverage if you or a member of your family are currently pregnant, have a pre-existing health condition, are taking prescription medications, or have been declined for private health insurance.
If you think losing your job is a possibility in the next year, start reviewing your employer health care plans now. During open enrollment, you may be able to choose a plan that would cost less if you were later required to pay all of the premium through COBRA.
Go online and compare plans from at least 2-3 different health insurance companies. Look at options between 6-8 plans side by side, benefit for benefit. At a reputable site like eHealthInsurance.com, it’s as easy as typing in your birth date and zip code.
Look for an individual plan online that has the same benefits (if you need all those benefits) and especially the same doctors that you love.
Buy only what you need and save on the monthly premium. Choosing a high deductible plan is smart for some individuals and families because it typically reduces monthly premiums, but you must be prepared to pay the amount of the deductible in the coming year as health care needs arise.
Short-term health insurance, which typically lasts for six months, can be a great way to prevent a health insurance gap when you are between jobs or your COBRA benefits are timing out. Applying online for short-term health insurance is quick and easy. Typically you are asked to answer a few basic questions, and you get a quick response.
Now might be a good time to look into a Health Savings Account (HSA)paired with a high deductible health plan. This type of health insurance allows you to pay directly into a bank account that you own and use to pay for qualified health care expenses at your discretion. The best news? Your HSA travels with you regardless of your employment status.
Check into all your options – sometimes it is less expensive for certain family members to be on a separate plan, for example, if someone has a pre-existing condition. Do the math on separate policies if there are special needs. It’s easy to price individual and family plans online.
Click here to read about COBRA law.