The question I dare not ask HR.
August 9, 2011 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Do you lose your health insurance the instant you leave your job?

I am planning to quit my job and would like to do so as soon as possible but I have one last doctor's appointment I would like to have covered by my insurance before I lose it. I trying to determine the earliest date at which I can give my two week's notice and still have my appointment covered. Unfortunately, changing the appointment is not an option as my doctor is super booked.

When you quit your job, do you lose your insurance the moment you walk out the door for the last time or does it continue for some period of time (until the end of the month, until the employer gets around to taking you off the plan, etc.)?

I have two weeks' vacation coming to me and my immediate supervisor (who knows I'm quitting) seems to think they would treat the two weeks after my last day as if I really was taking vacation and I'd still have my benefits for at least those two weeks. She is not 100% sure though and I don't feel it's wise to ask anyone else.
posted by Jess the Mess to Work & Money (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your insurance wouldn't continue past your last day of employment unless arrangements were made (get it in writnig!). Even if it was still active the day you have your appointment, it could be cancelled retroactively and you will be responsible for the charges.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:09 AM on August 9, 2011


This is handled very much on a case by case basis. Do you have an employee handbook to reference? It may be spelled out there.
posted by something something at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2011


Are you planning to get COBRA?
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2011


This might be what you're looking for but I'm not HR specialist. My advice would to to talk to your HR department and/or read up on COBRA:

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.

COBRA generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the prior year offer employees and their families the opportunity for a temporary extension of health coverage (called continuation coverage) in certain instances where coverage under the plan would otherwise end.

COBRA outlines how employees and family members may elect continuation coverage. It also requires employers and plans to provide notice.
posted by Paalen at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I've quit (or been let go) in the past insurance expired at midnight.
posted by COD at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2011


Also, are you considering signing up for COBRA? Because that's a way to keep your insurance for a period after you leave a job. It can be expensive -- you pay the amount your employer usually contributed, I think. But I didn't think it was too expensive when it covered the emergency appendectomy I had a month after leaving my job. (Without insurance the bill would have been $12,000, and that was 20 years ago.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2011


Also, there's nothing wrong with discussing this with HR. You can leave off the info about your appointment -- your question is simply, "How long will I still be covered?"
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:15 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your company is large enough to have an HR department, odds are you will be elgible for COBRA. However, COBRA is fracking expensive - it would probably be cheaper to cover one dental appt out of pocket.
posted by COD at 10:16 AM on August 9, 2011


You need to talk to your HR department and find out how they're handling the paperwork. I quit a job about a week before the end of the month and the HR manager and I mutually agreed that it'd be better if I just walked and they'd pay me in lieu of notice, but that she'd keep me on the insurance books through the end of the month. It was definitely something she could do but didn't have to do.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:16 AM on August 9, 2011


Definitely depends on the employer. In my case, we pay our premiums in advance and any unused vacation is credited as time worked rather than paid out in a lump sum. So, if my last day is August 31st, I have paid for my insurance through Sept. 15. Further, if I have credit for three weeks' vacation, my official last day would be Sept. 15 and I would have insurance through Sept. 30.

Check the manual!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:17 AM on August 9, 2011


Ah-I do this for a living so I can answer with 100% authority on this one (finally!!! yea me!)

It depends on your insurance plan document. Some groups term the day of termination, and some term at the end of the month. It all depends on your policy. Call your insurance company and ask them (not your boss)

And after you do lose coverage you have the option of Cobra coverage, but it is expensive as it means you pay the premiums to keep you insured instead of the company (ie my job-I pay $45 per week, they pay an additional $350 per month to the insurance plan) + a 3% Cobra admin fee (aka- how I get paid for doing Cobra admin) But if you have a pre-existing condition (like cancer just to name a HUGE one) you *need* to keep current on your insurance or it will be harder/more $ to get insurance again.

Good luck.
posted by Frosted Cactus at 10:20 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the answers so far everybody.

I'm unfortunately not going to get COBRA as it's just way too expensive, but it sounds like I ought to start looking into some other kind of coverage and I will.

I work for small non-profit and the employee manual is pretty basic and I am hesitant to approach anyone about this since I haven't officially declared that I'm going to quit yet so it would be kind of weird to go into HR and say "I want out of this hole as soon as possible. Is there any way I can quit now and still keep my insurance until X date?".
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:45 AM on August 9, 2011


Your insurance wouldn't continue past your last day of employment unless arrangements were made (get it in writnig!). Even if it was still active the day you have your appointment, it could be cancelled retroactively and you will be responsible for the charges.

This is not true.

I've worked with many providers, and what they do is this:

Pretend you get canned, or quit on the 2nd of the month. All insurance providers tell the employer "well ok, we'll cancel his policy...but since its past the first of the month, you have already committed to paying for the whole month". So there is NO INCENTIVE for the employer to cancel the policy on the 2nd unless they hate your fucking guts and want you to die (I've seen that too).

Call up your provider and ask if your insurance is valid.

And yes...cobra afterwards...which is horribly expensive.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:55 AM on August 9, 2011


Employers typically pay by the month, so you'll likely have insurance through the last day unless your company is atypical.

One thing to keep in mind is that COBRA is available for 90 days afterwards and it is retroactive if at any time in that period you decide to opt for it. Yes, it's expensive, but you don't immediately need separate coverage (barring pre-existing conditions that require continuous coverage to be paid by your next employer, although short breaks seem to be okay).

When I moved, we had "no" insurance for our cross-country drive, but if anything happens, COBRA would be cheaper than any sort of hospital visit. YMMV.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:09 AM on August 9, 2011


Sorry, COBRA election period is 60 days not 90.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:11 AM on August 9, 2011


Your insurance coverage can end as soon as your employment does, but it can also be dragged out until the end of the month, especially when a nonprofit with a small HR department is handling it. Most employers pay employee health insurance premiums a month in advance, and if they cancel someone, they're not getting it back.

Be careful about the vacation. In most everywhere I've worked, once you quit, your vacation is converted to dollars and paid out. It's no longer considered vacation and you're not considered employer for the time you had saved up for vacation. That's to the benefit of the employer; they'd have to pay taxes on you for longer otherwise. Your immediate supervisor is most likely wrong, so don't trust her advice. If you can swing it, start your vacation NOW, and set your last day for a day or two before you come back.

I worked at a small-ish nonprofit who kept paying my premiums for more than two years even though I alerted them to the problem. They kept saying it was taken care of, but someone snoozed at the wheel. Guess what organization isn't getting my charitable dollar anymore? Yeah.
posted by juniperesque at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2011


At my last couple of jobs health insurance ended at the end of the month.

Also, having looked into COBRA recently....it was terribly expensive. You have to pay what your employer was putting into the plan. I think it would have cost me around $500/month to do COBRA. I signed up for individual insurance through Kaiser and it is less than $200/month. I very rarely go to doctors or need prescriptions though so your mileage and needs may be different.
posted by fieldtrip at 11:50 AM on August 9, 2011


Oh, and seconding that vacation days are cashed out --- it isn't like you are working there for two additional weeks when you aren't working there. You might be getting some bad information from your supervisor. Is there anyone there who handles HR?
posted by fieldtrip at 11:52 AM on August 9, 2011


I have quit and been rehired by the same company twice. I am paid bi-weekly and my insurance still works at least through the pay period, as I would have already paid my share of the contribution. If you are hesitant about not having insurance, can you wait until after the doctor's appointment?
posted by itsacover at 12:55 PM on August 9, 2011


Every job I've had health insurance through (all large nonprofits or universities) the insurance lasted through the end of the month in which my last day of work occurred (actual last day of work, none of this saved up vacation time stuff). But it sounds like there's a lot of variation here and you won't be able to find out for sure without talking to HR (or maybe talking to someone who's quit recently).
posted by mskyle at 1:11 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there any way that you can postpone quitting until after your appointment is paid for? That sounds like the only guaranteed way to make sure you don't end up being charged for it to me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:24 PM on August 9, 2011


Frosted Cactus has it. It depends on the contract your employer has with your insurance provider. Coverage could go to 11:59pm on your last day, or could go through the end of the month, or some other odd arrangement. Call the member services number on your insurance card and ask them.

I also do this for a living, but from the insurance carrier side
posted by spinturtle at 4:38 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, HR is like half of one person's job here and that person generally has no clue, so I'm pretty sure asking her would be pointless.

My original plan WAS to stick it out till after the appointment and I might still but the job situation has been stressing me out to the point I haven't gotten a decent night's sleep for the past two weeks so I'm considering bailing early.

juniperesque, ha ha! I would be totally and utterly unsurprised if that happened with my employer, too. Not the most competent potatoes in the sack.

Thanks, again, everyone. I'll call the insurance company and depending on what they tell me, I might be able to turn in my resignation letter as soon as next week. Yippee!
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:17 PM on August 10, 2011


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