|Health Insurance: Making Sure You're Covered|
Losing a job doesn’t just mean losing a paycheck—the loss of health care and dental benefits can also hit hard. The good news is that the majority of workers and their dependents are eligible for continuing coverage under several different types of coverage.
If your previous company employed 20 or more workers, COBRA is a continuation of the employer-sponsored health care plan under which you were covered. For employers with less than 20 workers, 41 states also offer continuation coverage. Finally, if both types of coverage run out, you may also be eligible for state insurance through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
When you leave your job, your HR representative should provide you with information about COBRA’s continuing coverage, if available. You should have 60 days to elect this coverage, and up to the deadline, if elected, the coverage acts retroactively to your termination date (or date of loss of coverage). The coverage lasts for a limited time (usually 18 months, unless disability is a factor in your termination), and payment of the entire insurance premium is the responsibility of the employee.
If you are not eligible for COBRA because your former employer sponsored a health plan for fewer than 20 workers, state continuation coverage may be available. Your state’s Department of Insurance should be able to tell you exactly when and how to file for continuation coverage (find the Department of Insurance in your state). If both of these types of coverage are exhausted, you may also be able to file for further coverage under HIPAA. The main requirements are that you were consistently covered under your former employer’s health plan for at least 18 months, and that you have used up all of your available COBRA and/or state continuation coverage.
One other option may apply to you if you were laid off due to foreign competition and imports. Trade adjustment assistance was set up by the federal government to provide benefits to employees directly affected by companies outsourcing to other countries, including supplements to health insurance costs.