YOU ASK:

Will the new health care bill allow us to keep our COBRA plan?

WE ANSWER:

The new health care bill has not changed the rules and regulations of COBRA.

So, yes, even when you get unemployed, you get to keep your COBRA plan, but only for a maximum of 18 months.  

In the first part of the year 2010 (up until May 31, 2010), subsidies were given to help unemployed persons keep paying for the COBRA plan. However, eligibility for these subsidies has already expired. If you do want to keep your COBRA plan, you will have to pay for the premiums - both you and your employer's share of the premium, as well as the administrative fee. 

Currently, short term measures are still being set up in order to help people keep their COBRA plan until the new health care bill fully kicks in and provides health insurance coverage for as many as possible. The government may try to extend the subsidy, so we suggest that you keep yourself posted.

As a background, COBRA allows one to maintain the coverage provided by their employer for as long as 18 months. That means that if one is fired, laid off from work or is given reduced working hours, he will still be covered by the insurance for as long as he keeps it in force by paying the premiums.

The sad reality is that health insurance usually becomes one of the casualties in today's economic downturn.  And without an employer paying for their share of the premiums, keeping your COBRA plan may be very expensive indeed.

Now, if you think you can't keep your COBRA plan, you can investigate to see if there are other avenues by which you can keep yourself covered with insurance. You can check out your employees' union to see whether they provide insurance coverage to those who have been fired. You can also consider becoming a dependent of your spouse, if he or she happens to have employer-sponsored coverage.

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