One of the most painful parts of losing a job is having to deal with replacing your health insurance. Most people feel unprepared to select and enrolling in this type of health insurance even though most of us will have a handful of interruptions in employer-provided health insurance over our full working career. Employer-provided health insurance expires on the last day of the month of termination of employment. Enrollment in an unemployment health insurance is never automatic and must be addressed within a short time after termination of employment.
Types of coverage
While unemployment compensation is provided through the government, unemployment health insurance is provided through commercial health insurance companies. The term "unemployment health insurance" is generic and therefore may refer to one of several available insurance programs. Some people who work for larger companies have the option of continuing their same health insurance for up to 18 months by paying the full cost of this coverage plus an administrative fee. This is commonly known as COBRA coverage. In some cases a similar program called "individual conversion coverage" is available. In either case the burden of enrollment and full payment of premiums is solely the responsibility of the terminated employee. Despite the obvious advantages in simplicity and continuity of coverage, few people can afford this option.
The most popular type of unemployment health insurance is short term major medical insurance. Despite the name, this insurance can span several years or longer and eligibility requirements are minimal1. This insurance offers flexibility with high coverage limits. Policies can be renewed month-to-month from one month to six or twelve months. The two most important features of this coverage are that it is valid with all doctors and hospitals in the U.S. (no network required) and it provides a Certificate of Creditable Coverage2 to be used with your next employer's health insurance policy. This is important because it ensures that the new coverage immediately takes over the cost of treating pre-existing medical conditions.
Specialty insurance can be used in specific situations and regular individual major medical insurance is suitable when it is unlikely that there will be other employment in the future and the applicant is financially stable.
Plan to enroll in a bare-bones coverage rather than a fully loaded policy. Most people avoid incurring voluntary medical expenses while they are not employed so this insurance is primarily designed to cover large unexpected medical expenses. Also, because of the uncertainty of unemployment, it is smart to select an insurance that is less expensive than you think you can afford.
Short term medical insurance is priced at about 1/3 of the cost of your former insurance or COBRA option. For a typical employee, this means that the total cost of the unemployment health insurance will be approximately the same as the amount you were contributing to the employer's health plan through salary-deductions3. Using his guideline, it may be psychologically comforting and aid in your personal financial planning to know that the total out-of-pocket cost of health insurance remains relatively constant from the period of employment to the period of unemployment.
All of the following insurance products provide strong protection against catastrophic losses and provide a Certificate of Creditable Coverage to ensure payment for pre-existing medical conditions on your next employer-provided health insurance plan. The price of the coverage varies and some products are better suited for specific situations. We suggest narrowing the list to two or three choices and then get online quotes for each product.
Use the online enrollment options available. This is faster and safer than a paper application and offers immediate confirmation of coverage.
All of the following choices are available a MedSave.com. They are grouped according to price range although price varies from one person to another based on location of residence, age, and sex.
Lowest cost unemployment policies - Celtic Insurance STM and UnitedHealthOne Golden Rule Insurance STM are often the least expensive insurance plans to cover a gap in group health insurance. Some of these plans keep cost down by using a "per cause" deductible rather than a single policy deductible.
When specific medical conditions or circumstances exist then additional sources should be checked to determine the best coverage options. The special situations are: 1) when significant medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol exists, 2) applicant is a resident of MA, NJ, NY or VT, 3)non-US citizens, 4) residing in the U.S. les than a year, 5) previously declined for health insurance coverage, 6) applicant is overweight or 7) coverage is needed outside of the U.S. In all of these cases, see the article titles "Short Term Medical Insurance for Special Situations".
Individual help in selecting the best value insurance is available through OnlineAdviser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 See the article "Am I Eligible for Short Term Medical Insurance" and "How Long Can I Be Covered by Short Term Medical Insurance" for details.
2 See the article "Understanding a Certificate of Creditable Coverage" for more information.
3 This assumes that the average employee contribution for employer-provided coverage is about 40% of the total cost.
An artice in Time (November 13, 2008) predicts that the number of uninsured Americans will rise sharply to above 50 million within the next few months. This pessimistic prediction assumes that many employers will drop their group health plans to combat the recession by the end of the 2008 calendar year and that many of these individuals will not obtain alternate health insurance on their own. The prediction also assumes that employers would drop health coverage altogether rather than switch to one of the low cost limited beneft plans now available. We see no reason to support these assumptions.
The number of uninsureds has actually decreased slightly over the past two years as more affordable insurance plans have been introduced to the market according to our "Covering the Unisured: 2008 Update" report. The cost of employer provided health insurance coverage for an employee without dependents is about $6,000 per year and COBRA coverage cost slightly more. But the cost of individually purchased short term medical insurance averages only about $1,800 per year. About 72% of Americans currently qualify for this type of low cost short term medical insurance. (Short term medical insurance is not available to the residents of four states or individuals with serious pre-existing medical conditions).
Given this viable and affordable alternate coverage possibility, it seems unlikely that more than an additional four million people would choose to go without any health insurance in 2009.
Golden Rule Insurance Company, a national leader in innovative low cost health insurance, announced that its "E-store" will be closed for system maintenance over the weekend of Friday October 17, 2008 and will reopen at 8:00AM eastern time on Monday October 20. While direct self-serve online quoting, enrollment and some other functions may still be available during this weekend, MedSave.com will postpone customer service requests until Monday when all online functions are available to provide full enrollment support.
Golden Rule Insurance provides low cost short term medical insurance as well as a line of affordable long term renewable insurance policies for individuals and families in most states. See www.MedSave.com/goldenrule for more information.
New data gathered by insurers shows that parents continue to be the driving force in a college graduate’s decision to buy short term medical insurance following graduation. Parents pay the premium in more than half of the short term medical insurance policies issues to those in the 21-24 age group. Without this parental financial support, a college graduate is four times more likely to go without medical insurance for a period of two months or more following gradation.
College graduates and their families are often surprised to learn how affordable health plans can be. MedSave.com, a leading provider of low cost medical insurance for college graduates, reports that the average cost of the six most popular health plans to young adults has dropped this year to for the first time in recent history. The price drop is due to the expansion of limited benefit plans rather than a reduction in overall health care costs.
But more health plan choices also means that there is more potential for selecting the wrong coverage. Not surprisingly, the least expensive health plans tend to be the most popular among young adults. This can lead to less than adequate protection. These health plans tend to provide up-front benefits for smaller medical expenses like doctors office visits but offer the least protection for catastrophic risks. It is important that college graduates choose the right plan for their own health situation. It appears that parents may be less likely to be involved in the selection of the insurance than in helping with the cost. Many college graduates are purchasing insurance for the first time and purchase trends indicate that some are making uninformed choices based solely on the cost of coverage or misperceptions of the risk/benefit aspects of insurance choices.
In most cases a high deductible short term medical insurance policy provides a young adult with the best protection at the lowest cost. Most college graduates and other young adults do not benefit financially by purchasing health insurance that covers routine health care like doctors office visits, lab tests and prescription drug costs.
New York residents face a triple threat when it comes to short term health insurance. First, the insurance products used in most states that are specifically designed for this purpose are not available in New York. Second, the coverage that is available is slow; often taking at least a month just to get through the manual application process. Third, the coverage is expensive. No pricing discount is recognized for the likelihood that this insurance will not be in force long enough to accrue catastrophic claims.
The easiest solution is to buy temporary insurance while staying in another state. Insurance issued in another state is valid in New York and allows treatment with any doctor or hospital in the U.S. There is no requirement that the address on temporary health insurance be your permanent residential address. Some New Yorkers residents purchase health insurance while staying at their out-of-state colleges, while at their second home in another state or while on vacation or visiting relatives. The insurance covers treatment while they are away from home as well as with the doctors and hospitals at home in New York. Almost all short term medical insurance is purchased online and most offer immediate download of the policy and insurance ID cards. Most insurance companies allow you to have the policy mailed back to a New York address if you will be returning from your trip soon.
The only other possible alternatives we can offer are:
1. Core Health Insurance – a limited benefit policy that does a fairly good job at mimicking the benefits of major medical insurance
2. International Medical Insurance - for individuals who are not permanent residents of U.S.
3. Inbound Immigrant Insurance – for individuals who have recently moved to the U.S.
If none of these options will work then it is especially important to explore all options to keep, extend or convert prior health insurance regardless of the higher cost.
A flood of articles in recent weeks discuss the difficulties triggered by Massachusetts' experiment in mandadted health insurance.
The Kaiser Founation published an excellent summry report at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_index.cfm?DR_ID=51517 .
Several other states including California have declined similar proposals. Pols show that the majority of Americans do not wnt mandated health insuance, yet this provision remains a key provision in Hillary Clinton's campaign platform.
A new article titled "Health Insurance in a Recession" points out some general strategies that may prevent costly mistakes when making desicions about health insurance in financially difficult times.
Maine Department of Insurance warns that consumer insurance scams increase during economic downturns. The logo above is designed to help inusrance buyers focus on verifying the legitimacy of dels that seem too good to be true. Consumers are also welcome to use the free independent OnlineAdviser service simply by emailing email@example.com to verify the legitimacy of any suspected insurance plan. All of the low cost health insurance plans listed at MedSave.com at http://medsave.com/low-cost-health-insurance-listing/me.htm have been verified as legitimate legal plans in Maine.