Pretend I'm 10 -- healthcare insurance between jobs in the US?
February 3, 2017 6:22 AM   Subscribe

It's been covered before, but the questions are a few years old. US/California filter. I am planning to start a new job (YAY!), but plan to take a 1-2 week-ish break after leaving my current job. How does one think about healthcare insurance coverage in between? Does signing up for COBRA retroactively still work, and really, how does one do this? Any concerns with that plan? Explain this to me like I'm 10 years old.

Should I look to getting insurance on "the exchange"? Should I be worried about Trump/GOP changes to healthcare laws?

Me+1 Spouse to cover if that matters. I'd obviously like to save some money, but want to be sensible about it.

I haven't given notice yet to my current place, so may try to time things differently depending on the answers here. From looking at the current job's handbook, it looks like coverage ends the day of termination.

Thank you!
posted by ellerhodes to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
When I quit my first job, I was then offered the option to sign up for COBRA to continue my existing coverage. I think this is a thing that happens once you give notice and talk with your HR person.
posted by olinerd at 6:40 AM on February 3, 2017


You should be covered under your existing (old job's) health insurance until the end of the month you quit in because, presumably, you have alredy paid the premium in your last paycheck.

So if you quit on 2/1, you should be covered until 2/28. I would check with the benefits coordinator for the job you're leaving or even call the insurer.
posted by eatcake at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


I believe you have 60 days after leaving your old job to sign up for COBRA. Your employer is required to inform you of this option.
posted by the_blizz at 7:07 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Retroactive COBRA still works. Fill out the forms as soon as you get them so that if you or your spouse get hit by a bus all you have to do is send it in (although if it's only 1-2 weeks you will probably only barely get the forms).

Your job *might* cover you to the end of the month but it might not. Some companies cut you off at the end of the pay period or the end of the day!

Oh also if your spouse has the option to get coverage through their job, you might be able to use that as a stopgap, since losing coverage is generally a qualifying event.
posted by mskyle at 7:09 AM on February 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


You should be covered under your existing (old job's) health insurance until the end of the month you quit in because, presumably, you have alredy paid the premium in your last paycheck.
Not necessarily true. Some employers will cover you until the end of the month, some will cover you until the end of the pay period, some will terminate coverage on your last day. They may refund the prorated premium when they pay out unused vacation time or what have you.

However, you can sign up for COBRA up to 60 days retroactively in CA (in fact, you may not even get the paperwork before you start the new job), so you should be fine to ride it out as long as nothing so catastrophic happens that you can't sign up.

One other thing to be aware of is that not all employers will start coverage on the first day of a new job. I've had to wait until the first of the next month at some jobs or a preset waiting period that can be even longer at others. So you'll want to verify this with the new place. If it were a long waiting period I'd probably look into getting Exchange coverage if COBRA is super expensive (which it usually is).
posted by Kriesa at 7:14 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


I believe you have 60 days

I think that is 56, but yes, this is current. Once you tell your job you are leaving, they have a legal obligation to explain to you how COBRA works but they might be jerks and not tell you til sort of late in the process.

Some of this depends on the size of your employer. If there are 20 or more employees, than this works for you. This FAQ may help.

What COBRA would mean is that you can continue your coverage but you'd have to pay your entire premium yourself for that time. They will tell you what those numbers are. Often you pay this direct to the previous employer, this is normal but it will feel weird. And yes, it applies retroactively. So if you quit, take two weeks off, did NOT sign up for COBRA, get hit by a bus in week one, you can retroactively get signed up for COBRA (within that 56 day window) and still be covered.

Since you have a two week break, this should be fine. You should also see how long it will be before you are covered by your new employer, sometimes there is a waiting period.
posted by jessamyn at 7:14 AM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


sometimes there is a waiting period

Yeah, I've seen up to 90 day waiting periods (though that was pre-Obamacare), so be sure to check with HR at your new job soonish. If that is the case, COBRA probably does not make sense, and you should look into your partner's employer or the exchanges.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:36 AM on February 3, 2017


If you're going to have a 1-2 week gap you won't be penalized under the ACA for being without insurance for that time. I believe that the gap allowed in a calendar year is 60 days. If it was a gap of 1-2 weeks I'd usually roll the dice and be in the gap for that time period. Most of the time when I have resigned or been laid off, I'm covered through the end of the month. Always check but that's not atypical. Coverage on the exchange will come with a 30 day waiting period.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:47 AM on February 3, 2017


A couple years ago, I left a job and my last day was the last day of the month. I started my new job the next week, but wasn't eligible for insurance until the beginning of the month AFTER I started working there. I went on the Exchange website, priced out plans, then ended up calling an insurance broker friend who found a "catastrophic only" Blue Cross plan for cheap. It wasn't ACA-compliant, but it was only like $80 for the month, and served well as a stopgap. At the time, she warned that in the future, such catastrophic only plans will likely be subject to ACA fines, but I'm not sure if that's currently true or not.

If I had to do it again, I'd try to leave a job earlier in the same month in which I was starting a new job to try to avoid this rigamarole.
posted by writermcwriterson at 8:14 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Step 1: Figure out what your actual last day of coverage is on your current plan. It may be your last day of employment, it may be the end of the month.

Step 2: Figure out what your first actual day of coverage is on your new plan. It may be date of hire, it may be the 1st of the next month, it may be the 1st of any number of months in the future, etc.

Now you know your actual gap of coverage.

IF THAT GAP WILL BE SMALL:

Step 3: When the COBRA paperwork comes in fill it out and mail it. You have 60 days to do this.

Step 4: Write a check for your first month of COBRA coverage, put it in an addressed envelope somewhere easily accessible.

Step 5: Tell your wife, friend, etc. that if something happens while you are uninsured they are to mail that envelope. If something happens to your wife while you are uninsured, mail that envelope. You have 45 days from Step 3 to make your first payment.

IF THAT GAP WILL BE LARGE:
You should probably enroll in COBRA or another health plan (for example something through the healthcare exchanges) to cover the gap. I don't say this because I think that you might be penalized under the ACA, I say this because I believe that being uninsured is the SINGLE BIGGEST FINANCIAL MISTAKE someone in the United States can make. And that fact is only going to be more true under Trump/Republicans.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:22 AM on February 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


You should be covered under your existing (old job's) health insurance until the end of the month you quit in because, presumably, you have alredy paid the premium in your last paycheck.

This is not always true. My employer begins covering health insurance on day 1 of employment where many other employers start on the first day of the month after you start. If I were to leave, my coverage would end on my final day of employment. This is a question for your HR team of the place you're leaving, as well as the place you're going to.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:39 AM on February 3, 2017


Thank you all!!
posted by ellerhodes at 6:04 PM on February 3, 2017


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