Bridging The Gap In Healthcare Costs

If you're between jobs, COBRA can provide affordablemedical coverage for you and your family. Here'swhat you former employer won't tell you.

entire family, dies–these are all qualifying events.

After you’ve talked to human resources, you now have an “election period” of 60 days to sign up for COBRA coverage. According to the law, that two-month election period starts the day you lose coverage or the day you receive written notice regarding COBRA rights, whichever is later.

You now have a 60-day election period before you’re required to sign on for health benefits. So, if you have a new job already lined up that begins any time up to 59 days from your termination date, you needn’t pay a dime to get the security of two months’ health coverage.

Of course, you’re not covered during that time. You’ll have to pay out of your pocket, should you need medical attention. The good news is that COBRA is retroactive; you’ll be reimbursed if you decide to stay on the plan when the 60 days are up. Unfortunately, many people learn about the relative high cost of COBRA coverage only after they no longer have the time to freely explore other options.

The best time to review your choices, the experts advise, is before you sign up for COBRA. Get a quote from your human resources department on how much your COBRA premium will be, and gather information on price options under your company’s policy mix. Once you’ve priced the alternatives, there are several avenues you can take.

USING YOUR EXPERTISE TO ADVANTAGE
When he found out he was being let go by his Buffalo law firm, Tom Kreutter used a trick he had learned during his 12 years as an office administrator: he went after the better deal. Sizing up coverage under each of the firm’s health care options, Kreutter and his wife eventually chose coverage under an HMO option at a cost of $292 a month. The premium on his previous policy was $370, almost $80 more a month. “It’s one way I could use my expertise to my advantage,” says Kreutter, “I knew my options, so I knew I could save money.”

While m
ost companies limit enrollment to a set period every year, it still doesn’t hurt to press for some kind of tee-way.

LOOK OUTSIDE YOUR COMPANY’S COVERAGE
If COBRA premiums look too large to swallow, there are a number of alternative sources that might be worth looking into. Belonging to a group plan offers several advantages over individual coverage, namely lower rates and broader coverage. One national group, Working Today (212- 840-6066) requires a $10 membership fee to join, and has recently set up a health coverage plan with premiums that range from $116-$215 a month, depending on an individual state’s rate.

If you’re single and in good health, an individual or group plan with a high deductible is worth looking into. Under high deductible plans, offered by various health insurance carriers, you’re responsible for the first $500-$1,000 in expenses incurred, but will be covered for any amount above that to the limits of the policy. In many local markets, HMOs offer individual coverage that can serve as

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