How to Keep Health Insurance Intact

By: Christian Rios

Have you recently lost your job and are worried about yourmedical coverage? Or perhaps you are thinking of quitting your job but fearyour new employer's health insurance provider will reject you for coverage dueto a preexisting medical condition? Whether you lose your job or you choose tofind new employment elsewhere, the government has two programs that can help:COBRA and HIPPAA. These programs protect your coverage in the event you need toswitch employers.

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COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reduction Actof 1985. It allows for employees to extend their health coverage whenever theiremployer's provided policy ends for any of the following reasons: your employerterminates your position, as a covered spouse your coverage gets terminated dueto a divorce or legal separation, you become disabled, your company reduces theamount of hours you can work and the result is you are no longer eligible forcoverage due to not working the minimal amount of hours required toacquire/maintain insurance, the insurance-providing employee dies and leavesthe spouse and/or children without medical coverage. In most states, this formof extended coverage is limited to companies with 20 or more employees.However, a few states have reduced the minimum amount of employees to 2. Checkwith your insurance expert to determine what the current minimums are for yourstate.

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From the day you leave your job (or your position isotherwise terminated under the above listed conditions), you have 60 days toelect to continue your coverage as outlined under COBRA. Once you officiallyelect to continue coverage through the COBRA program, you have 45 days to payretroactive premiums. Once you have paid any back-due fees, your policy willresume and remain active until any of the following occurs: you voluntarilyterminate it, premiums are not paid within 30 days of the due date, a coveredperson becomes eligible under another policy or by Medicare, the employerdiscontinues offering group coverage to all of its employees, the COBRAcontinuation period has reached its maximum.

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HIPPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability andAccountability act of 1996. It allows for individuals to switch companies andbe accepted under the new employer's program regardless of preexisting medicalconditions. Imagine having an expensive medical condition that is currentlycovered under your present employer. Now imagine you need to relocate orperhaps get offered a more lucrative form of employment at another company. Inthis situation, HIPPAA protects you from being handcuffed to your current jobfor health insurance purposes; the new employer's provider must accept you.

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A few of the areas where an individual is protected underHIPPAA are as follows: pregnancy and prenatal health problems cannot beconsidered preexisting conditions, acknowledging credit for any prior insurancepolicy coverage during the previous 12 months (limits the preexisting timeframe), limiting the length of time a preexisting condition can apply to 12months, requires that providers cannot decline health coverage to new employeesbased on health insurance reasons only.

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Between HIPPAA and COBRA, individuals who have theiremployment terminated early or who otherwise must leave their currentemployment while having an existing medical condition and fear losing theirinsurance, are protected from losing their coverage altogether. Check with yourinsurance expert to determine how COBRA and HIPPAA can help you with yourcurrent employment situation.

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