How do I deal with unexpected job loss?
July 21, 2007 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Legal secretary abruptly unemployed in New York State. Help me understand my job hunting and insurance situation.

Until yesterday afternoon, I was a legal secretary with a large firm in a mid-sized city in New York State. I'd been with my employer for seven years, six and one half of it under a single supervising attorney, who left the firm in January. His replacement and I got along poorly and yesterday afternoon she fired me, allegedly for frequent typographical errors.

Prior to this point, I have always received excellent performance reviews. My previous supervising attorney will provide a glowing reference, as will the law clerk for the judge most of my department's work is docketed in front of. I had been in the process of looking for another position when I was fired.

None the less, I have never been fired from a position before and I would appreciate advice on how to best represent the situation at subsequent interviews.

I will lose my health insurance on July 31. I presently take Celexa, Wellbutrin, Seroquel, Klonopin and Synthroid. In so far as I can tell, COBRA coverage is prohibitively expensive, while Healthy New York does not cover mental health treatment. I am extremely concerned by the possibility that, if I'm forced to cease taking my medications for financial reasons, beyond the depression, the withdrawal symptoms will make it difficult to find work. Any advice on how to acquire maintenance medication until I'm on my feet would also be welcome.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have had good luck purchasing several months of prescriptions in advance by telling the pharmacist I am setting off on a long international trip. ymmv.

You should also call the prescribing doc's office, explain the situation and ask them if they have any samples to tide you over.

Don't forget! You are also eligible for unemployment if you get fired. I would apply ASAP
posted by paddingtonb at 10:40 AM on July 21, 2007

First off, I'm sorry the job didn't work out. I hate it when supervisors make it so difficult on good employees.

In my experience, any treatment for depression or other mental illness, will prohibit you from getting individual health insurance, although that may depend on the state (I'm not in NY). One of the former threads on here said that there's a good program in NY. Check into that first, search for "individual health insurance" or something here on Ask Metafilter.

That said, be sure you get something immediately - even though you may be physically healthy, anything can happen. Although it's expensive, you may want to do one month of COBRA while waiting to find something else. Be sure to apply within 90 days to keep continuous coverage, otherwise you may have a waiting period to receive coverage at your new job.

Whatever you do, unless NY has a good way to get insurance with pre-existing conditions, don't apply for individual insurance, such as with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, since your pre-existing condition will cause them to decline you, and for the rest of your life every individual insurance application will ask you if you've ever been turned down. (All of the info is kept in a national insurance database called the Medical Information Bureau.)

Unless the NY program will work for you, short-term individual insurance is the way to go. They usually only ask a few questions (the ones I looked at didn't include questions about depression or any other mental illness). It can cover you for up to 12 months while you look for something else. It's inexpensive. There are several threads here - search for "individual health insurance" for help.

Good luck!
posted by la petite marie at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2007

Chiming in again...I second paddingtonb's suggestion to get as many samples as you can. I had a similar suggestion, and my doctor was more than happy to oblige.

If not, google "Patient Assistance Programs." Every drug maker participates in giving free medications, if you qualify (which it sounds like you do) so that we won't hate them so much. You would probably just have to have your doctor fill out a form and send it in.
posted by la petite marie at 10:49 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

You don't have to lie about it necessarily to make this work. When you mail-order medications, the standard amount is three months' worth; what's more, mail-order prescriptions tend to be a good deal cheaper. That's how I do it; you just have to get the necessary prescriptions from your doctor and mail them in with a form.
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 AM on July 21, 2007

In terms of job hunting, have you tried contacting the attorney you used to work with? If he left the firm to work elsewhere, he may be interested in hiring you there, or able to recommend you to others.
posted by zachlipton at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2007

Definitely consider a month or two of COBRA while you sort things out. Perhaps your previous boss might have some ideas of where you could look for work? Good luck.
posted by judith at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2007

Yes, yes, get the COBRA as you want to be covered for preexisting conditions once you find another job. Also, tell your doc immediately-he or she should have samples AND be able to tell you how to access the patient assistance from the pharmaceutical companies.
posted by konolia at 12:22 PM on July 21, 2007

Sorry about the job. Your new "job", right now, is protecting your future.

Konolia said it, but to make it very clear, if you continue COBRA between jobs, it stops your new insurance declining for pre-existing conditions.

Although it can be pricey, it's very, very worthwhile in the long run, if you have pre-existing conditions, as you do.

You must also keep all the paperwork that certifies this continuity.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 3:23 PM on July 21, 2007

You've gotten some good advice re: your insurance coverage. As far as explaining your termination in future job interviews, you can say something like "It was an apparent personality conflict. I usually hit it off very well with my bosses, as you can see from this recommendation from X. But his replacement was the exception that proved my rule of good relationships. We just didn't get on well. I'm not sure why." Don't badmouth the person who fired you. Just indicate that you're ready to move on and feel confident that you can do an excellent job with this new company.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:51 PM on July 21, 2007

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