There is a helpful article in the New York Times today, “Steps to Take Before Cobra Subsidy Ends”, which lays out some tips or suggestions to maintain your coverage while Congress debates on whether or not to extend the subsidy. It points out that your COBRA payments will go up, and that it is better to pay the full amount than let it lapse.
That’s good advice. Letting your insurance lapse creates a new set of issues that are next to impossible to avoid or untangle. There is a grace period, usually not more than 90 days, which is about three months. Remember, though, that applying for an individual or family health plan can take 30-40 days to process, and applying does not guarantee you will be given coverage.
And it is the lack of guarantee that gives me pause when I read:
time to shop around for health insurance alternatives that may be more affordable.Check ehealthinsurance.com and healthplanone.com for general pricing information from carriers that provide individual policies in your area.
You may find a plan that is perfect for you (and your family) at an affordable price, apply and get denied. The denial puts you right back at square one. And that is a frustrating, demoralizing place to be.
To avoid, or at least improve your chances of getting coverage, apply to more than one plan that you like and/or find a respectable health insurance broker. Or check out organizations like MediaBistro, the Freelancers Union, the National Association for the Self-Employed or something similar that offers health insurance to members. They have often brokered good deals for members already, much like your former employer. And if you’re a lawyer, try the American Bar Association.
When it comes to health insurance, there is something to be said about being part of a large group. MediaBistro, Freelancers Union, NASE, ABA and others put you back in a group, and sometimes that can lead to more than just health insurance coverage.
Take the time now to investigate your options and get the ball rolling on applications. It will make a difference.