Stethoscope and a calulator. Calculators are sometimes needed to determine an embedded deductible for health insurance

Best Ways To Get Health Insurance Between Jobs




Changing jobs is a hassle. Even when the change is your decision and you are excited about making a move, there is a lot of uneasiness that comes with finding new work. When you are between jobs due to a termination of some sort, it is not uneasiness you deal with, it is piles of stress. One of the biggest issues during a change of employment is finding good health insurance between jobs. Fortunately, there are a few ways to make sure that you and your family are covered in the event you find yourself without employer sponsored health insurance.

Before you start looking at your options, there are a couple of things you will need to understand.

  • First, make sure you have a firm understanding of when your coverage will begin at the new place. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) limits, for the most part, waiting periods to less than 90 days. Still, you will need to know if you will be covered on your new date of hire, first of the month following date of hire, first of the month following 60 days of employment, etc.
  • Second, know going in that some of these options will be more costly than what you were paying at the old place. Your employer was most likely subsidizing a large portion of your premium. The amount varies by the employer, and some do not pay much, but some do.
  • Third, a new plan will most likely have a different provider network, meaning your old doctor may not be in the network and you will pay more to visit him/her. Or you may not be able to visit that person at all. Check the networks of the plans you are considering.

Having said all that, here are the best ways you can get health insurance between jobs.




Health Insurance Marketplace

The health insurance marketplaces set up under PPACA are a great place to start when you find yourself looking for medical insurance at any point, especially if you are between jobs. The marketplaces, also called exchanges, have an annual enrollment period during which everyone can enroll, but if you have certain qualifying events, you may enroll at any time during the year. A loss of coverage is considered a qualifying event, so if you lose your insurance coverage when you leave a former employer, you can purchase a plan on the marketplace.

On the marketplace you will be able to easily explore and compare insurance options available in your area. Marketplace plans can be more expensive than what you were paying at your job, but you might also be eligible for a subsidy to help pay the premium. If the price is right, the marketplace might be the best option for finding health insurance between jobs.

COBRA

Employers that employ 20 or more people are usually required to offer COBRA. COBRA allows employs to continue to be on their former employer’s health insurance plans. The catch is that the employee is required to pay the full cost of the premium plus a fee, usually an additional 2%. For a family plan, this can be upwards of $2,000 per month or even more. An individual plan might be around $500 per month, but compared to what the employee was most likely paying out of a paycheck, $500 is a big jump.

COBRA guarantees that your plan will stay the same, and your doctors will still be available. But it is costly, so make sure this is absolutely the best option for you when you need health insurance between jobs.

Short-Term Health Insurance

Another option is to get a short-term health insurance plan, or temporary health insurance. As the name implies, short-term health insurance is when you only will need the insurance for a small amount of time. It is not full coverage medical care, and it will not keep you from the PPACA individual mandate penalty. In fact, short-term health insurance is not subject to most of the PPACA provisions.

Companies offering short-term health insurance can deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, and they are not required to renew coverage.

Still, temporary insurance can be a great cost-effective way to get the medical care you need.

Coverage Through a Spouse’s Plan

For married couples, if both people work, the person that is between jobs can jump on their spouse’s plan if one is offered through that person’s employer. There probably was a good reason why both people were not on the remaining plan to begin with, so there is a good chance that the coverage or price may not be as good as the coverage that was lost. But the plan may still be better and cheaper than what is available through the marketplace and COBRA. And the plan will definitely cover more than what short-term insurance covers. If this option is available to you, it is probably your best bet when you need health insurance between jobs.


Joining a Parent’s Plan

For people under age 26, enrolling in a parent’s employer-sponsored plan is a terrific option. Many employers do not charge much additional for children, and if another child is already on the plan, there is a good chance that the monthly cost will not increase at all. The plan still probably passes all the tests to avoid the mandate penalty, so it keeps you out of trouble with the IRS.

Telemedicine

While not health insurance, another way to get inexpensive health care while between jobs is to utilize telemedicine.  With telemedicine you can talk to a doctor anywhere, anytime, 24/7.  The cost is much lower than if you went to a doctor’s office and paid for the full charge of the visit, especially if you are not getting a network discount due to having no health insurance between jobs. Check out the link above and see if telemedicine is for you.

Health Insurance Between Jobs is Available

Being between employers is not always a fun thing to go through. Making sure you and your family are covered for medical expenses is a big priority. Fortunately, there are several ways to make sure everyone has quality and inexpensive health insurance between jobs.

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Should Young People Apply for the COBRA Health Insurance Extension?

One of the scariest things about losing a job, transferring to a new job, or going into business for yourself is wondering what will happen to my health insurance.  If you were insured through your previous employer, it can be a little overwhelming thinking about what you will do about your health care needs.  Fortunately, there is COBRA to help you along the way.  COBRA health insurance has some drawbacks, but it can help you stay covered.

What is COBRA Health Insurance?

COBRA health insurance is a law that allows an employee (or a dependent) who loses health insurance due to a qualifying event to stay covered through the group plan of their employer.  The coverage will be identical to what the individual had before the loss of coverage.

What are the Qualifying Events?

COBRA health insurance is available if the loss of coverage is due to any of the following:

  • Voluntary or involuntary termination of employment due to any reason other than gross misconduct
  • Reduction in hours of employment, thereby making the employee ineligible for coverage under their group plan
  • If the employee becomes eligible for Medicare, dependents become eligible for COBRA
  • Divorce or legal separation allows dependents to become eligible for COBRA
  • Death of the covered employee allows dependents to become eligible for COBRA
  • If a child loses dependent child status, the child become eligible for COBRA

How Long Is the Enrollment Period

An individual must be enrolled in COBRA by the later of:

  • 60 days from the loss of coverage, or
  • The date the COBRA election notice is provided by the plan administrator

How Long Does COBRA last?

If the loss of coverage is due to employment termination or a reduction of hours, COBRA health insurance is available for 18 months from the loss of coverage.  If the loss of coverage is due to any of the following, then COBRA is available to dependents for 36 months:

  • Employee becoming eligible for Medicare (COBRA is available for 36 months from Medicare eligibility date)
  • Divorce or legal separation
  • Death of employee
  • Loss of child status

What Does COBRA Cost?

A downside of COBRA is that the subscriber must pay the entire premium of the plan (plus 2% generally for administration fees).  This can come as a shock to some people who are used to just paying a percentage of the premium through their employer’s plan.  For example, if the full premium is $500, but the employer just requires a payment of $100, then the former employee will have his or her monthly insurance cost increased by $410 ($500 + 2% = $510) – $100 = $410.

Is COBRA Only Available for Medical Insurance?

An individual can sign up for COBRA for medical, dental, and vision coverage, as long as they were enrolled in these plans before the loss of coverage.

Are All Employers Required to Offer COBRA Coverage?

No, COBRA is only required for employers with at least 20 employees.

Should a Young Person Apply for COBRA Health Insurance Extension?

This is a tricky question, and it depends on the new health insurance plans available, the cost of the plans, and the health care needs of the individual.  Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.  Therefore, it is not necessary to stay on COBRA because you are afraid of not being able to get coverage elsewhere.

However, if you look around and find that other coverage options are not as price-friendly, or do not cover the same level of benefits, it could be worth it to stay on COBRA.

But if you move to a new employer who offers health insurance, it will almost always be beneficial to switch to their plan since they will most likely subsidize a portion of the health insurance cost.

Remember, though, that there is a limit to how long you can keep the COBRA health insurance extension, so sooner or later you will have to find a new plan in which to enroll.

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