For many individuals, losing employer-sponsored health insurance is a particularly scary and confusing aspect of job loss. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many right now, as a recent study shows a record-breaking loss of health insurance by nonelderly adults due to pandemic-related job loss. Luckily, there are several options to maintain health insurance coverage if your job ends.
If your job has ended, you may have already received communication from your employer or group health insurance about a type of health coverage known as COBRA. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, voluntarily or involuntarily terminated employees must be offered the option to purchase continuing health insurance coverage from the employer’s group health plan. Your former employer is required under the law to notify your group health plan regarding your COBRA eligibility within 30 days of your job termination. The plan then has 14 days to provide you with notice of your eligibility. COBRA coverage is typically available for at least 18 months after job termination and is also available for dependents. Unfortunately, because the employer is no longer contributing to the premium costs, former employees are required to pay the group plan rate, which can be expensive.
If it has been more than 44 days since your job ended and you still have not received any COBRA information, start by contacting your health plan or former employer to ensure that they have the correct mailing address. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide notice to your group health plan, and their failure to do so does not mean that you cannot obtain COBRA coverage after 44 days pass. In fact, your employer is subject to government monetary penalties for each day that their notification is late. Additionally, if you incur medical expenses during a lag in coverage due to your employer’s failure to provide notice to your health plan of your eligibility for COBRA, you may be able to bring suit against your employer to hold them responsible for the expenses that would have been paid by your health plan during that coverage lapse.
In addition to information provided by your former employer or health insurer, more questions about COBRA are answered here.
MNsure, Medical Assistance, and Minnesota Care
Whether or not you are eligible for COBRA through your former employer, loss of a job and associated health insurance coverage qualifies you for a 60-day “special enrollment period” during which you can apply for health coverage through MNsure. MNsure is Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace to shop for and select a private health insurance plan. You may know this coverage option as Affordable Care Act coverage or Obamacare.
When you complete your application online, you will receive information about different private insurance plans available, along with your eligibility for financial assistance to help pay for a private plan depending on your household income and size. This may take the form of tax credits or cost-sharing reductions for the private plan you select.
Your application will also be automatically reviewed to determine your eligibility for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, programs that provide free or low-cost health insurance for Minnesota with low incomes. These income limits can be found here.
You can find more information and complete an application for a MNsure marketplace plan, Medical Assistance, and MinnesotaCare here.
Other Special Enrollment Period Options
Your loss of job-related health insurance coverage also creates a special enrollment period to enroll in a spouse’s employer-sponsored health coverage. Even if you or your spouse previously declined to enroll, your spouse can request special enrollment for your or both of you through your spouse’s employer.
Job loss can be frightening, but the employment lawyers at Schaefer Halleen are here to help. If you have questions about the circumstances surrounding your job termination, or believe you have been wrongfully terminated, contact us.