IS COBRA OR THE AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE ACT BETTER FOR YOU?
Are you unemployed and thinking about COBRA or currently uninsured? Is COBRA more expensive than you can afford? If you are employed with coverage, should you be looking at other coverage? Amanda Farahany answers your questions about which options are available to you.
Q: I am unemployed and currently pay for COBRA coverage, but it is too expensive. What are my options?
A: If you have COBRA coverage, you can buy a plan in the marketplace, where you'll likely find cheaper option. In fact, some expect the health exchanges to replace COBRA coverage because of the savings to individuals and families. An August survey by the National Business Group on Health found that about 41% of employers believe former employees on the company's plan under COBRA would find the exchanges to be the most cost-effective option. As someone unemployed, you will likely be able to receive a subsidy on your pricing.
Q: What if I did not elect COBRA, and I now have no coverage. I need medical treatment for a pre-existing condition.
A: One key change under the health plan is that those who have no coverage, even with pre-existing conditions, will be given health insurance. In addition, under the new plans, your doctor visits will be at no charge to you (not even co-pays) for preventative care, including cancer screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms and other preventative care. See also: https://www.healthcare.gov/what-are-my-health-coverage-options-if-im-unemployed/
Q: How long will it take to be able to access and use the insurance you pick after signing up October 1st or thereafter?
A: You can sign up now, and plans and prices will be available then. If you enroll in a plan by mid-December, your new coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014. During the rest of open enrollment, if you enroll between the 1st and 15th day of the month and pay your premium, your coverage begins the first day of the next month. So if you enroll on February 10, 2014, your coverage begins March 1, 2014.
Q: I currently have private health coverage through my company. Will I be able to compare coverage and rates with policies offered under ACA, or is this only for people without insurance?
A: You can check out plans on the exchange, but be aware that you may not qualify for a subsidy (tax credit) — even if your income would otherwise make you eligible. You'd only qualify if you earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level and your employer's plan covers less than 60% of allowed medical expenses or costs more than 9.5% of your household income.
Q: How do I find out more about what my options are?
A: Go to www.healthcare.gov where you can get a quote on rates and information about your best rates. Remember, no matter what you decide – your employer cannot retaliate against you for exercising these options.