Friday, July 8, 2016

Consider your options when you lose your employer-sponsored insurance

Finding out you are being laid off is stressful, and in addition to that, you have to make important decisions about health insurance that can save you—or cost you—thousands of dollars at a critical time. It’s important to consider all your options when deciding between COBRA or buying your own plan.

What is COBRA? COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which is a federal law that allows you and any of your immediate family members to stay on your employer’s health plan under certain circumstances :
  • You lose or quit your job 
  • You get a divorce 
  • The employee dies 
  • You are no longer covered as a dependent due to your age
Only employers with 20 or more workers in the previous year are required to offer COBRA coverage. State and local governments fall under COBRA, but the federal government and certain religious organizations do not.

COBRA can be expensive. People who choose COBRA coverage must pay the entire premium, including the portion previously paid by the employer, plus a 2 percent administrative fee. Be warned, if you enroll in COBRA and later on want to switch to a health plan directly to an insurance company or through the Washington Healthplanfinder, you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period if you don’t qualify for a special enrollment.

Options other than COBRA
Before you decide to go with COBRA, find out if you can buy a health plan through the Washington Healthplanfinder and receive a subsidy to help pay your insurance premiums. You can also purchase coverage directly from an insurance company, broker or agent if you don’t qualify for any subsidies.

If you choose a health insurance plan, you likely will be responsible for a full yearly deductible. Generally, health insurance deductibles are not prorated for partial-year enrollees, no matter how few months are left in the plan year. Individual or family qualified health plans operate on a calendar year, from January through December. There is no way to transfer the money you spent toward another plan’s deductible when you switch plans mid-year.

Read more about losing your health insurance on our website. Questions? Contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

For COBRA- specific laws and questions, contact:

U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration
Seattle District Office
300 Fifth Ave., Ste. 1110
Seattle, WA 98104