Archive for Health Insurance

Health insurance and COBRA.

More people are probably aware of COBRA and health insurance than ever before because of the economic downturn and unfortunate massive job losses. But what exactly is COBRA?

COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The is a federal law that was passed in 1986. It allows for the temporary extension of health insurance benefits in the event an employee covered by an employer group plan has their hours cut or no longer has a job.

COBRA allows you to continue under the group plan for at least 18 months, so you can still have health care insurance coverage. Spouses and dependents may also be eligible to receive COBRA coverage.

You will, however, be responsible for the full premium including the portion that your employer may have paid before. Many people who lost their jobs were shocked to find out how big this premium is (or how much of the tab their employer was picking up).

COBRA kicks in immediately after a person loses their job, which can be an initial relief considering the trauma of the circumstances. Employers are pretty much required to offer it, unless the company closes or goes bankrupt and there is no longer a group plan.

Many employer group health plans are quite comprehensive and, depending on the plan, the full premium can be quite high — especially if someone is now without an income. There are some alternatives.

Temporary or short term health insurance can provide you a period of coverage between jobs. The premium is often lower than many plans, but the coverages are also more limited.

You can also get a basic and essential health plan that again provides limited coverages but at a lower cost.

Many people start their own business when they find themselves unemployed. There are many companies that offer health insurance for self employed individuals.

Also, you may just want to shop around and do some health insurance comparisons. You may find a plan that’s right for you at considerably lower cost than the COBRA premium.

Losing a job in these tough times is certainly traumatizing. If you can somehow fit some health insurance protection into your budget, you’ll gain some peace of mind.

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Health insurance in California: New tool to protect consumers.

The California Department of Insurance announced last week that consumers can now receive alerts by e-mail when new health insurance rate filings are made for the individual market.

According to the department’s press release, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said, “We want as many people as possible scouring these rate filings to ensure they are mistake-free.”

The idea behind this (as part of Poizner’s pledge to create transparency by posting all health insurance rate filings on the department’s Web site) is to protect consumers by making sure insurers are spending 70 percent of premiums on medical benefits as mandated by state law. Apparently, the more eyes analyzing these rate filings the easier it is to catch a mistake. It’s not apparent what kind of “mistakes” the department is talking about.

Now this may or may not change how you shop for a California health plan. Perhaps it will give you an idea of which health insurance company has lowered their rates, or has lower rates.

The fact that rates are determined by the companies, and consequently rates (and coverages) can vary quite a bit, means that consumers shopping for affordable California health insurance still need to get multiple quotes to find the right plan. It’s often recommended to get at least three individual quotes for a good comparison.

When reviewing a health insurance plan, keep in mind other factors besides rate. For example, what are the coverages and exclusions? How much is the deductible and co-pays? Can you get access to the physicians and health providers you need? Make sure it will provide for your needs and is offered by a company with a good financial reputation.

If you want to sign up for the alerts, just go to the California Department of Insurance Web site.  Basically, all you have to do is provide your e-mail address and select the documents or updates you want to receive.

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