FMLA, Resignation and Health Insurance Coverage
December 16, 2016 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I need health insurance until I start my new job, when should I submit resignation to ensure I am covered until my new one kicks in? Questions on scenarios inside -

I am currently on maternity leave and this upcoming Tuesday will mark two weeks before I am set to go back to work. I received a job offer and am taking it, to start that Tuesday (1/2) but with baby being on my health insurance I am worried about being two weeks without insurance. So if I put in my two weeks notice on Tuesday (12/20), can the employer not accept it and just terminate employment immediately instead? If so what does that mean for my health insurance coverage? Is it best to submit my resignation in two weeks instead and give them no notice? I know that's not great for not burning bridges but I think not returning after maternity leave anyway doesn't help with that.. (Which Im okay with).

Will being on the last two weeks of my maternity leave (FMLA) shield me from having my employment terminated immediately? If it matters I am in Indiana.

If I need to ask my health insurance about this - how do I go about asking them without tipping off my current employer? I can't ask HR, if I ask the help line of my health insurance, would they tell my employer?

I am submitting this anonymously because I don't want the employer to track this to me.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You need to ask - and you need to ask both jobs. There are two different (common) scenarios - and probably many other uncommon ones:

- Your health insurance only turns on and off monthly. If this is true at CurrentJob, you will be covered through 12/31. If this is true at NewJob, you may not be covered until February 1 (the first "first day of the month" after your start date).
- Your health insurance turns on and off with your date of employment. If this is true at CurrentJob it will stop on your last day of employment. I'm not sure how FMLA/etc. plays into that, but when that is not a complicating factor then yes they could just terminate immediately and cancel health insurance. FMLA may help with that ability. If it is true at NewJob your health insurance should start 1/2.

The help line of your health insurance may or may not know (and may or many not be right even if they tell you...) - it depends on the contract between your company and the insurance provider, not on the basics of your health insurance. Do you have friends who have stopped working at that company recently who you could ask?

Other things that may help:
- Are you eligible for COBRA coverage from your current job? That means if you are uninsured for a period of time you could activate your coverage retroactively if you need to
- Are you eligible for coverage on a spouse's plan? You leaving your job and therefore losing insurance is a "qualifying event" and you should have 30 days from that event to sign up for insurance on that plan - and again in many cases that would include retroactive coverage. But you would need to look into that.

That said:
- You are generally not morally obligated need to give 2 weeks notice in the same way when you are coming back from leave - you don't need to wrap up projects, etc - you did that before you left on leave. I personally think you are fine to wait until your next job has started. Do double check with NewJob about the insurance start date though.
posted by brainmouse at 3:12 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most jobs in the U.S. are covered by COBRA which guarantees you continuous coverage, though depending on how your insurance is charged you may have to pay for a coverage period you are unemployed. Voluntary resignation is a qualifying event, only termination for gross misconduct is not covered.

The frank reality is that so many employers have made a practice of terminating positions immediately when employees provide notice of resignation that it's becoming increasingly common advice to simply not give notice. Hire at will/fire at will goes both ways.
posted by nanojath at 3:27 PM on December 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

In many cases, group health insurance coverage lasts until the end of the month in which you quit/were terminated. This isn't universal, though--it can also be the day of termination, or the 15th of the month. You can call your insurance carrier and ask, and no, they will not tell your employer.

When your health insurance starts at the new job can vary, too, anywhere from the day you start to first of the month following 60 days after hire (and lots of possibilities in between). When you accept the job offer, the company's waiting period will likely be in your employee handbook or benefits packet or whatever. If it's not there, it's perfectly reasonable to ask.

Regardless of when your coverage ends, you will be eligible to continue your existing coverage at your own cost through COBRA. Either the federal COBRA program if your company is large enough, or a state program if they're smaller. If you find out that there's going to be a short gap in coverage between jobs, this may be a good option for you.

For both federal and the state you tagged's COBRA, you have up to 60 days to decide to enroll, and once you enroll the coverage will be retroactive to the day after your previous job's coverage ended. Some people game the system by not enrolling unless they need medical care, then enrolling and getting retroactively covered. I am not recommending this course of action, because it's expensive up-front (you most likely will have to pay your doctor out-of-pocket first) and submitting claims is messy and unreliable and probably not what you want to deal with between jobs and with a fresh new baby. But it is a thing people do.

Losing group coverage also qualifies you to enroll via the marketplace, which is often cheaper, though often not worth the hassle of signing up and dealing with a change in plans for only short gaps.
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:59 PM on December 16, 2016

The person who answers the phone at the health care carrier's 800 line won't know when your coverage terms - end of month or last day of employment. You might be able to find this information on your company's intranet or in your staff manual. You can certainly ask the new employer when your health coverage will start.

If you're offered COBRA coverage, you'll have 60 days to elect it and then 45 days to pay for it after you make your election. If there's a gap between when your current coverage ends and your new coverage begins, you can stretch out the time that you elect and then that you pay. If you need medical coverage during the gap time, pay for COBRA and the coverage will be retroactive to when your current coverage ends. If you don't need coverage during the gap, don't pay for it. On preview, rhiannonstone covered this.

I'd give the two weeks' notice. But I'm cautious and in HR, so there's that.
posted by Wet Hen at 4:58 AM on December 17, 2016

You also need to be prepared for the possibility that your current job can seek their portion of any insurance premiums while you are on leave from you (that may mean more than just your health insurance). The FMLA protection assumes you will return to your job, if you don't then the company doesn't have to maintain that coverage for you.

But yes, COBRA is likely your easiest option for gap coverage. If not then through the health care exchanges.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:53 AM on December 17, 2016

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