April 5, 2006
So, you got pink-slipped. Don't let your health insurance slip, too.
Here are options to keep yourself insured while you look for a new job:
• Enroll in a spouse's workplace plan. You can do so even if it isn't open enrollment season.
• Maintain coverage under your old employer for up to 18 months through the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Premiums will be much higher because you'll be paying the full cost.
COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more workers. Under Maryland law, you may remain covered for 18 months if your employer has fewer than 20 workers. But there are exceptions. The state law, for example, doesn't apply to employers that pay their own claims.
You have no coverage under COBRA if your employer went out of business. But if your defunct company had an affiliated business with insurance, you could get COBRA coverage through it.
• Buy an individual policy. It can be cheaper than COBRA, although the benefits will likely not be as generous. However, an insurer might not sell you a policy if you have serious health problems.
What if COBRA runs out and you still haven't landed a job with insurance? Marylanders may purchase coverage through the Maryland Health Insurance Plan. This also is the insurance of last resort for residents who can't get coverage because of poor health. Premiums are higher than the standard rate.