News Outlets Look At What COBRA Enrollees Can Do When Their Coverage Expires

As the first of the laid-off to receive a 65 percent subsidy on the cost of continuing their former employer's coverage under COBRA prepare to try to afford coverage without the subsidy, news outlets are helping people examine their options. 

San Francisco Chronicle: This column reports that the COBRA subsidy will expire Monday for the first laid-off workers who were eligible for it. "These are the people who started receiving the premium in March 2009, when it first became available to laid-off workers who were eligible to remain in their group health plan, under either the federal law known as COBRA or a state version. Former employees receiving health coverage under COBRA normally pay 100 percent of the insurance premium, but those getting the subsidy pay only 35 percent and the government pays 65 percent." Some may be able to stay on COBRA for an additional three months, as the federal COBRA law allows, but would do so without a subsidy — which is cost-prohibitive for many. In California, Cal-COBRA allows people to stay on their former employer's plan for up to 36 months. "You generally can not get this extended coverage if your former employer is self-insured — and many big ones are, even if they hire an insurance company to administer the health plan. Also, if your insurance policy was issued in a state other than California, you will not get the extra 18 months of coverage under Cal-COBRA, although you might get additional months under the other state's COBRA law" (Pender, 5/27). 

Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch: This "Talking Money" column recommends that people who lose their COBRA coverage should start shopping around immediately for a new plan as individual plans are often much cheaper than remaining on your former employer's plan. Consumers can also look for government help. "If you have pre-existing conditions, you're likely going to have trouble finding an individual plan. States offer plans for people who are HIPAA eligible, which essentially means you previously had group coverage, you exhausted your COBRA, and you haven't been uninsured for more than 63 days, says [Karyn] Schwartz, [senior policy analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation] (Chatzky, 5/27).

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