It used to be there was only one option available if you lost your job-based health insurance: get COBRA continuation coverage. Now, if you find yourself without the health insurance benefits from a job, you also have other options: get an individual plan on or off the Marketplace.
These options provide the coverage you need if you lose your job or you are affected by circumstances such as reduction in work hours, job transitions, or other life events that leave you without health insurance.
- The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law that allows you to pay for short-term (usually 18 months) coverage for you and your family on your employer health insurance, after your employment ends or you lose coverage. This means you’ll have to pay the full monthly premium without any contribution from your employer, which can be an expensive option as you may have to pay an additional administrative fee of 2%. But it also means you’ll be able to stay with the same network providers and continue to get the coverage and care you’re used to.
To be eligible for COBRA, you must have been enrolled in your employer’s health plan when you worked there and the health plan must still be available to active employees. Your employer should have provided you with a COBRA notice. Talk to your employer if you didn’t get one.
- Through the individual Marketplace, you may qualify for lower monthly premium costs and lower out-of-pocket costs. You can choose coverage from the Marketplace if you leave your job for any reason or lose your job-based health insurance, even outside the open enrollment period of Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. You can also find out if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage from Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Off the individual Marketplace, you can find plans that offer great comprehensive benefits and value-added perks. All new off-Marketplace plans still have to be Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) compliant: include essential health benefits, provide free preventive care services, and allow everyone guaranteed issue. The downside is these plans do not qualify for premium subsidies.
Losing your job and being affected by life events can be hard, but those circumstances don’t have to include the loss of your health insurance. Research your options and find which one works best for you!