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Handle Health Insurance if You Lose Your Job

When you're out of work, it’s critical to maintain health insurance coverage. While you’ll still be making monthly premium payments, those payments are often lower than the cost of a single visit to the emergency room. If your former employer offers you a severance package, you might be able to take advantage of that and make the monthly health insurance payments more easily.

Conversion and HIPAA-Eligible Coverage

If you have sufficient notice that your job is ending, negotiate with the company and request that your company-provided coverage be converted to an individual plan. This is known as a “conversion” plan and differs from COBRA. As you are in discussions with your employer, ask for all available options and go over them carefully. Because of your job loss, you may gain the right to buy individual coverage. Your pending job loss puts you into a special category called “HIPAA eligible individual.”

Spouse’s Employer Health Coverage

If your spouse also works and has employer-provided health care coverage, have her add you to her plan. While her monthly premium will increase, you and any children will have coverage. Insurance companies consider job losses to be a qualifying event, which means your spouse and her employer can add you to the company plan even if your addition to the plan happens outside of the open enrollment period.

COBRA Coverage

COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, makes it possible for employees who have lost their jobs to continue their health insurance coverage temporarily under the former employer’s insurance plan. Some restrictions, such as company size, determine whether you are eligible for COBRA. You have 60 days to sign up for COBRA after losing your job and 45 days to make the first premium payment. Coverage lasts for about 18 months. If you opt for this option, you pay the monthly premiums in addition to what is called an additional administrative fee of up to 2 percent of your annual premium.

Medicaid

Depending on your monthly gross income, you might qualify for Medicaid, the program that provides health care for poor children, families and the elderly, as well as people with disabilities. Eligibility requirements differ from state to state. If you have children, your state may provide coverage.



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