The resignation rate has increased at large organizations and small businesses, with more than 4.5 million workers quitting their jobs in November, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you recently left your employer — or are planning to do so — here are your options to make sure you have health insurance:
- You can keep your job-based insurance policy through the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. COBRA allows you to continue coverage — typically for up to 18 months — after you leave your employer.
- You can buy an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan through a public exchange on the health insurance marketplace.
- Or you can switch to your spouse or partner’s plan, if possible.
“It’s a three-pronged decision — spouse, ACA or COBRA,” said certified financial planner Carolyn McClanahan, who began her career as a physician and later founded Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla.
“It’s important to not only weigh the cost of the premiums, but the cost of the deductibles and copays and your underlying health condition,” said McClanahan, who is also a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.
With COBRA, you can usually keep the same health-care providers, experts say, but expect to pay more for coverage. You may be required to pay the entire premium — up to 102% of the cost to the plan.
On the other hand, a new government report shows the majority of consumers enrolled in ACA coverage on HealthCare.gov have deductibles under $1,000.
Dr. Kyu Rhee, a primary care physician and chief medical officer at Aetna CVS Health, said people should consider the “3 D’s: the doctors, the drugs and the diagnostics” before deciding on coverage.
“Leverage these exchanges to look at those high-quality plans aligned with your providers in an area that is affordable for you and your family,” he said.
Still on the fence about which option to choose? Be careful, time is a factor and it may work against you.
If you go on COBRA coverage, you may not be able to switch to an ACA plan until the next open enrollment season begins in the fall, McClanahan said. Open enrollment season for 2022 ends Jan. 15 for coverage that will start on Feb. 1.
If you miss the 2022 deadline, you may still be able to get an ACA plan under certain conditions, however. If you or anyone in your household lost job-based coverage, or expects to, you may qualify for a “special enrollment period.” Go to healthcare.gov for more information.
If your COBRA coverage is running out or your COBRA costs change due to certain circumstances, you may also qualify for a special enrollment period to make a switch to an ACA plan. Check out your options on the health insurance marketplace, and “you may find a lower-cost plan that will let you keep the medical providers you want,” Rhee said.
Sticking with COBRA
Want to stick with your COBRA coverage — or have to — for now?
For people in that situation, Michael Gibney, a CFP with Modera Wealth Management in Westwood, N.J., recommends an often-overlooked money-saving option.
“[People] can use some of the money in their health savings account to pay for that COBRA premium,” he said. After leaving an employer, “if they have some money available in their HSA, they can use that to pay the COBRA premium.”
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