Individual health insurance when moving states
September 23, 2013 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I am recently unemployed (as of Sept 1st) and will be moving from Texas at California in late October. Please help me figure out what I need to do for health insurance.

I've read previous AskMe questions on individual health insurance but I'm mostly concerned about how my move will affect my enrollment.

33 year old male, no family members.
Unemployed since September 1st.
No current health insurance.
I reside in Texas and plan to move to California in late October (without a job).
I rarely have medical expenses and have sufficient savings for a high deductible plan.
No pre-existing conditions, although three years ago I saw a psychologist for a couple months and was diagnosed with depression (thanks grad school!).

My understanding of COBRA is that I have two months from my last day of employment to enroll, and coverage will apply retroactively to this current period when I'm seemingly not paying anyone for coverage (but will have to backpay for this time).
I will have to pay $500/month.

Individual plan:
I'm looking at high deductible plans that websites are showing in the $100-$200 range. Also, because of the retroactive coverage of COBRA, it seems like I can start an individual plan before the two months expires and end up not actually paying COBRA $1000 for September and October as long as I don't have any medical expenses.
These plans appear to be apply to single states and not nationally.

1. Is my understanding of anything above incorrect?
2. How do I find an individual plan across states since I will be moving soon after I enroll?
3. Would it be easier to just pay the expensive COBRA plan?
4. Does the Affordable Care Act starting on Jan 1st change anything for me now?
5. Am I overlooking other options? I'm vaguely aware of short-term coverage.
6. Is this beyond the scope of AskMe, and is there an unbiased professional who would answer these questions?
posted by Durin's Bane to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Honestly? Nobody bloody knows. The private market is going to undergo a massive change in about a week, and exactly what's going to happen on October 2 is still very much up for grabs.

It's not even entirely clear that you should get COBRA unless you've had medical expenses between Sept. 1 and now. Credible coverage isn't necessarily going to be an issue once the new plans come on line. You've got 60 days from Sept. 1 to sign up, so I'd wait until the end of next week to see what's available before you pull that trigger.
posted by valkyryn at 11:42 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Affordable Care Act in California is manifesting through, so check out that website and/or call the people there to get information about your options come January. Enrollment is starting in October!

Pre-existing conditions shouldn't be a problem these days, but there are loopholes,

If you're hoping for public insurance (Medicaid is called Medi-Cal here), a lot might depend on which county you will be living in.

This may seem obvious, but if you have a plan in Texas that you plan on continuing while here, make sure that it's a plan that has providers here. There are many HMOs that only have providers in the area they are offered in, so make sure your plan has an option where you can choose providers whereever you plan to end up in.

Kaiser is a large force in the health insurance industry here, and they have many options for coverage, but again, this may or may not work for you, depending on exactly where in California you plan on going.
posted by jasper411 at 11:47 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly? Nobody bloody knows. The private market is going to undergo a massive change in about a week, and exactly what's going to happen on October 2 is still very much up for grabs. = this is very much true. The online exchanges to shop for your 2014 insurance options open on October 1; I would not even think about researching prices for 2014 until the exchanges open and you can see what your options are. You might be eligible to have some or all of your premium costs subsidized.

As for high-deductible options, how high is the deductible, exactly? Would you be financially able to meet the deductible if it came to that?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:48 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your situation might be ideal for one of the new exchanges. Check out Enroll America for more information. The good news for you is that these new exchanges will be available before your 2 month COBRA window closes.

Many states will deploy Health Care Navigators in local communities, perhaps in a social security or county health building, so if nothing else you may be able to consult with someone face to face to understand all of your options. It looks like Texas hasn't quite figured it out yet, but maybe you can at least take a look at the federal exchange information in the meantime.

Best of luck!
posted by Schielisque at 11:50 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ultimately, unless you get new employer coverage, you should be able to purchase individual coverage on the California exchange starting January 1.

In the mean time, you can be covered under COBRA. Look on your COBRA form. Somewhere there should be a deadline for election to continue your COBRA coverage. Usually this is 60 days after leaving the job. Then you have another 45 days to catch up all of the premiums since you left your job. Then your coverage is retroactive to leaving your job.

So what you could do is wait 60 days. Then elect COBRA coverage right before the deadline, then wait 45 days before paying anything. If you are lucky and have no major health issues, just fail to make the payment. If something major happens and you do need expensive healthcare within that 45 days, just pay the last three months premiums and you are covered.

This should get you to around the middle of November. At that time you can choose to just take your chances and go without insurance until Jan 1, or get a short term cheap coverage to bridge the gap.

The nice thing about COBRA is that you can just wait the 60 + 45 day period to see if you need it. If you do, pay it and you are retroactively covered. If not, don't pay it.
posted by JackFlash at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2013

Open enrollment for CA starts in October and to be eligible for your coverage to start January 1st, you must be enrolled by December 15th (I believe. My notes are at work and I can double check the deadlines tomorrow)
posted by amapolaroja at 2:31 PM on September 23, 2013

Ok, open enrollment in CA will be from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. For your coverage to start by January 1, you must enroll by mid-December.
posted by amapolaroja at 10:37 AM on September 24, 2013

To update: I was almost going to do the 60+45 day COBRA plan but decided to get private insurance for Nov/Dec costing $89/month. Probably worth the peace of mind for the two weeks I would have been without any coverage. I'll be signing up for ACA to start on Jan 1st. Thanks for the help!
posted by Durin's Bane at 12:17 PM on October 23, 2013

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