Mike

Healthcare after a downsize

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One of the most challenging experiences I've had, in the US, is the healthcare insurance system.  My number one issue is the fact that most people (including myself) use the employer-based insurance program.  While it does have many benefits to join a group healthcare insurance program, it can be a real nightmare when a layoff occurs.  It can be a big problem if you're also carrying the primary insurance for an family.  I'm not going into a big story with this, but, I did want to share some of my experience.  At the time of my layoff, I had coverage for myself and my son.  My fiance had her own coverage through work.

So, if you're laid off and need to find coverage, what are your options?

  1. COBRA - COBRA is a federal law that may let you pay to stay on your employee health insurance for a limited time after your job ends (usually 18 months). This is basically the same insurance you had at your employer.  However, since you are no longer working for the company, you must pay the FULL price of coverage.  I *believe* you still get the group discount, but, because your employer paid most of it, you are now on the hook for the entire bill.  In my case, (using round numbers) I was paying about $200/mo and another $250/mo for the high deductible plan - a total around $450/mo.  After my layoff, the numbers more than doubled to around $950/mo.  After a layoff, this can be a big challenge.   This is where you'll need to balance the cost of coverage versus your expenses.  If you don't go to the doctor often, and in great health, it's likely not worth it.  However, if you need a lot of doctor visits or have a large procedure (surgery, etc) you may want to consider it.  You will receive information in the mail about COBRA, but, you can also visit their website here:  https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/health-plans/cobra
  2. DEPENDENT COVERAGE / MARRIED - If you're married, and your spouse has coverage at work, this can be the best and most cost effective option.  A job loss is considered a 'qualifying life event' which means your spouse can add you (and children) to their plan.  Your spouse would simply need to move their coverage from an individual plan to a family plan.  This will certainly cost more per month, but, not as much as COBRA.  One caveat to remember, if you have already paid off your entire deductible at your prior job, you'll have to start over with a new deductible amount.  This should be used to calculate the difference between this plan and the COBRA idea.
  3. DEPENDENT COVERAGE / UNMARRIED - If you are living with your significant other, and unmarried, there may also be hope.  I believe the laws vary by state, but, some insurance companies allow coverage for 'domestic partners'.  In my case, my fiance was able to add both of us to her policy.  We did have to sign a waiver, and provide proof that we were financially relying on each other.  We had to provide proof that we were making a large purchase together, which was our house.  They also allowed other forms of proof such as a joint car payment, personal loan, and other options.  Coverage for domestic partners are typically more expensive, but, in my case the value was still worth it.
  4. FEDERAL PROGRAMS - There are some options available in the US, through the website healthcare.gov.  I don't have any experience with this, but from what I can tell, they have a marketplace where you can buy your own coverage.  They have a special enrollment period (much like a qualifying life event), where you can sign up or change coverage outside their typical open enrollment period.  The website looks pretty good:  https://www.healthcare.gov/have-job-based-coverage/if-you-lose-job-based-coverage/
  5. PRIVATE INSURANCE - You can also look for private insurance companies that will sell you insurance as an individual or as a self-employed worker.  I also do not have a lot of information on this, but, there are a lot of resources online.  Here's a great website where I found some additional information:  https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/private-health-insurance.asp

All-in-all, it is possible to get the health coverage you need after a layoff.  Don't let yourself get too frustrated and make sure you weigh each option.  I signed up for a Google Docs account, and used their 'sheets' program to compare my options.  It's a great way to track each option so you can make an intelligent decision either for yourself or your family.  Keep your head up and eyes focused on the future, you will be fine!

Hope this helps, and feel free to let me know if you've found other helpful tips!

Mike

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