Curl up and die or get COBRA?
August 22, 2011 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Do I retire and just quietly die? Or can I get health insurance?

I've had it with my job. Can't take it anymore, but I'm a few months short of age 65 when I'll be able to get Medicare coverage. I'm paid minimum wage and do have BC/BS right now. Do I stop eating, keep my lights and heater/AC turned off and sell my only car just so I can buy expensive (for me) COBRA coverage? And -- I know this is a dumb question -- but can I actually get COBRA if I'm going from employment to retirement, which is what I'm telling Social Security. Oh, and my partner is disabled and we're living on my tiny salary and his SS disability; his disability has wiped out all of our savings, so we're living hand-to-mouth. Also, my employer has never offered any 401-K or pension plans.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you willing to contact the mods and let us see how to help you get through working to age 65?. Because that is the wise option.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Suck it up and keep working until you are 65. A lot can go wrong health wise in just a few months. If we assume you have six months left we are talking about 1/130 of your life to date - less than 1%. You'll make it, and telling the boss to take his job and shove it will be all the more sweeter if you can do it without any health insurance stress hanging over your head.
posted by COD at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

What state do you live in? There may be other options. Kentucky, for example, has a program called KentuckyAccess which sells insurance to people who can't get a better rate for comparable coverage any other way. Check with your HR person or an insurance broker for what's available in your state.
posted by acorncup at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2011

Please talk to a local community service organization (hard to say what without knowing location). They would give good advice on whether to stick it out with the employer, the consequences if you do not, and so forth. It doesn't sound to me like HR or an insurance broker would work for you.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2011

I'm not sure which area you're in, but I strongly encourage you to see if you have 2-1-1 in your area. If so, you can call them and they will let you know where you can go for assistance in your local area.
posted by shesbookish at 10:02 AM on August 22, 2011

Jobs with health insurance are probably not easy to find right now. Your partner is likely to be covered by medicare(-aid?). Your options are: find a different job that has health insurance, which you could keep for some part-time work in retirement, maybe even; go without coverage for a couple months, which really depends on your health; pay the horrid COBRA, and find a part-time job to help pay some bills.

I'm so sorry you have to go through this.
posted by theora55 at 10:08 AM on August 22, 2011

Check into this and don't take my word for it, but I believe you can take up to 60 days to elect COBRA, and that any medical expenses you incur during those 60 days can be retroactively covered if you pay the premiums. You also don't have to pay the premium upon electing COBRA -- you get a grace period of 45 days. This might allow you to take a wait-and-see approach. Perhaps that could tide you over until Medicare kicks in, if you don't have ongoing medical expenses for which you need immediate coverage. Also, although the safety net is definitely weak, you do have the right to treatment at emergency rooms regardless of your ability to pay. It's a bitch not having health insurance, but it is not a death sentence.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:54 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

A loss of coverage due to voluntarily terminating employment (for retirement or any reason) is a qualifying event under COBRA. You can carry COBRA for up to 18 months following voluntary termination.
posted by thatguyjeff at 10:55 AM on August 22, 2011

Also, depending on how long "a few months" is, you may be able to purchase short-term catastrophic care coverage just for that period. It won't cover squat unless you get admitted to the hospital, but that's the real danger zone for health care expenses.
posted by KathrynT at 11:26 AM on August 22, 2011

Also this: Check into this and don't take my word for it, but I believe you can take up to 60 days to elect COBRA, and that any medical expenses you incur during those 60 days can be retroactively covered if you pay the premiums.

is true. Definitely investigate, but we had many care expenses retroactively covered, including prenatal costs for my second pregnancy.
posted by KathrynT at 11:37 AM on August 22, 2011

nthing to look into COBRA's retroactive coverage.

Also, If electing COBRA forced me to choose between lights and health care, I'd either hold on to the current job or seek another (or better, hold on to the current while seeking another).
posted by zippy at 12:25 PM on August 22, 2011

In Tennessee, you can buy private insurance that would likely be much less than COBRA. And you can join the Farm Bureau (don't have to be a farmer at all) and get on their BC/BS plan.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:12 PM on August 22, 2011

Thanks to all for the good advice, even those who say I keep my job. But I truly must leave, and soon. The boss actually said once that she couldn't work with me (I know more about the business than she does), the payroll department whimsically changes my paycheck from week to week (few cents here, few dollars there), and HR has stiffed me on vacation time for 2 years. I'm in good health for a 64-year-old, so I may go without insurance for a month or two (save money), and then find some coverage.
Again, I thank you!
posted by Smalltown Girl at 2:12 PM on August 22, 2011

If you can't handle working your job just for a couple more months, that is not normal. You might be depressed. If you are depressed, you might be able to take sick leave or unpaid leave for a few weeks or even for a couple of months. Put together with any remaining vacation time you are owed, that might bridge most or all of the gap until you turn 65. If that seems even vaguely plausible, you might as well see your doctor (while you still have health cover!) and get screened for depression, and ask whether they would sign something saying you need time off. Make sure you are completely open with them about the fact you are honestly considering such options as not using heat and starving yourself in order to avoid having to work a couple more months at your current job.
posted by lollusc at 6:40 PM on August 22, 2011

If you go without insurance coverage for 63 days you lose all your mandated protections with regards to pre-existing conditions, and it will be up to 18 months before you get private coverage again. And at your age (no offense intended) it won't be hard for the insurance companies to turn just about anything into a pre-existing condition.

From across the internet, you don't seem to appreciate just how fracking precarious your ability to have health insurance is. If your boss really wants you to go, maybe you can negotiate something where they keep paying their normal share of your premium until hit 65.
posted by COD at 6:55 PM on August 22, 2011

It's worth remembering that many people need supplemental insurance (medigap) on top of medicare. If you have a hole in coverage prior to open enrollment (when you turn 65), the medigap policy can refuse to pay your out-of-pocket on pre-existing conditions for 6 months. Medicare will still pay what it always would, but the out-of-pocket can be steep. This is explained in this pdf from medicare. Medicare is complicated!
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:57 AM on August 23, 2011

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