11 Tips to help you plan for your health insurance after a job loss

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1. Get your health insurance now before it expires

Immediately after you get notification of your loss of employment, contact your human resources department to inquire when your health insurance will end. Experts say this information is crucial to schedule appointments and plan for new coverage.

2. Keep up with your medical appointments

You may be focusing on finding new work in the midst of stress and disappointment from job loss. You should also make sure you get the most from your existing medical policy. You should schedule your bloodwork, imaging tests, and checkups with your primary doctor, dentist, and any specialists who treat chronic conditions. This can be stressful so make an appointment to see your therapist or another mental health professional. You can explain your situation to the doctor and request to be placed on a cancellation waiting list if he or she is not available before your health insurance ends.

If you have lost your contacts or glasses, get new ones. Ask for advance refills on all prescription medications. Also, ask about a three-month supply or a one month supply. All the same for each family member covered by your policy.

3. Understanding FSA and HSA

You should be aware that if you have money in a Flexible Spending Account (or FSA), there is a “use or lose it” policy. This means you must use the money within a specified time period and it can only be used for expenses incurred during employment. Sarah Michalczuk is the founder and chief executive officer of Predictabill which helps consumers compare different health insurance options. You can get reimbursement from your FSA by locating receipts for purchases made at drugstores such as prescriptions, cold medicine, tampons and glasses, contacts lenses, skin-care products, and pain relief.

There are no restrictions on how and when money can be spent in your Health Savings Account (or HSA). Michalczuk stated that there are some rules regarding the time you can put money in it. She said that you can only contribute to your HSA if you are enrolled in a qualified High-Deductible Health Plan, or HDHP.

You should ask your employer to list the qualifying expenses that you can use for HSA or FSA funds.

4. When choosing a new plan for your health insurance, be strategic

Experts say that you should find out if choosing one plan over the other will require you to switch medical providers when shopping for new insurance. Call your doctor to confirm that they are willing to accept the plans you are looking at.

5. If you have met your deductibles, consider keeping your employer-based coverage.

Although it can be costly to keep your employer-based insurance, it is worth considering if your deductible has been met or if your out-of pocket maximum has been reached. This is especially true if there are any upcoming surgeries or other procedures. Experts say that switching to a different plan would reset yourdeductible.

Individuals who lose their job are entitled to retain their employer-based benefits under Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which is applicable to businesses of a certain size.

Employers, especially larger ones, usually subsidize around 80 percent of the premium. This means that you will pay about 20 percent less than you would have otherwise and you’ll end up paying around 102 percent. He said that it was a significant financial loss.

You have 60 days to opt in to COBRA. It must be available for you for 18 months. In certain cases, it may even last 36 months.

6. Take a look at Affordable Care Act market plans

Even if there is no open enrollment period, job loss qualifies as a qualifying event to enroll in insurance plans under Affordable Care Act (ACA). These marketplaces allow you to search for plans and may be subsidized depending on your household income.

There are four levels: bronze, silver and gold, as well as platinum. The premiums for lower-tier plans are typically lower, but they have higher out-of pocket costs. Higher-tiered plans typically have lower premiums, but higher out-of-pocket expenses.

Deb Gordon, codirector of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates said that silver plans are not the Cadillacs of health insurance coverage. However, due to possible cost-sharing subsidies they can often be considered the best value. Experts explained that high-quality, employer-based plans for health insurance are more comparable to the gold and platinum market plans.

Gordon advised people to consider out-of pocket maximums when choosing a plan. She said that this is another way to estimate your financial exposure.

You might be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid

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Medicare and Medicaid are government-sponsored programs which offer good options for those who meet certain requirements.

Medicare is your best option if you’re 65 years old or older and are approaching retirement age.

Medicaid is usually free if your household income is below the poverty level. It is possible that less doctors will accept Medicaid depending on where you live. However, Michalczuk said in an email that there will be major hospitals within the network if your primary concern is coverage for emergencies.

8. Your spouse’s plan could be a good choice if you are married.

Kominski stated that if your spouse has an employer-based insurance plan for health, and your out-of-pocket family coverage costs are less than 9 percent of your household income you won’t be eligible for marketplace subsidies. This is an incentive for you to join your spouses plan.

  • He stated, “That’s always in some way the most cost-effective option and may even be the best option.”
  • Michalczuk pointed out that some employers might charge a fee for adding a spouse to the plan.
  • You should check to see if your spouse has coverage that allows you to opt-in and for how long.

9. A policy for an individual is also possible, but it is more expensive.

It can be expensive to look outside the market for private insurance plans.

Experts said that high-income people who are unhappy with their employer-based benefits or who do not wish to continue with COBRA may consider private insurance plans.

Consultation with a patient advocate, or a broker in health insurance may be an option. They can help you to understand the options available and which ones are best for you.

10. Reduce your medical expenses by finding ways to do so

Contact your doctor if you have to visit them before you can get new coverage. Experts explained that medical providers might offer financial assistance and payment plans. Mental health providers can sometimes offer a sliding-scale for clients who are already in good standing.

Prescription medications can be found at reduced prices on drug discount websites and apps like GoodRx. You can also find them online at a cheaper price through some online pharmacies. Caitlin Dovan, senior director at the Patient Advocate Foundation, stated that you might be eligible for drug assistance programs or co-pay assistance programs.

Low-income people without insurance may be eligible for prescription medication discounts from drug manufacturers, government programs, and non-profit organizations.

Co-pay assistance programs also cover part or all the co-pay of certain medications.

11. To save money on medical care, you can use other resources

Apply for unemployment insurance as soon as your job is lost. You will be eligible for financial assistance to help you pay groceries and child care costs. This will allow you to save money on medical expenses.

Donovan suggested that you also look into assistance programs offered by your church or other community organizations, such as animal shelters. These may be able supply food for your pets during times of need.

Uninsured can make it a full-time job. She said that there is a lot to do, a lot deadlines and you are likely looking for work. It’s stressful. But she said that it was important to remember that this problem is temporary.

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