Unemployment Health Insurance

TA | December 5, 2008

One of the most painful parts of losing a job is having to deal with replacing your health insurance. Most people feel unprepared to select and enrolling in this type of health insurance even though most of us will have a handful of interruptions in employer-provided health insurance over our full working career.  Employer-provided health insurance expires on the last day of the month of termination of employment. Enrollment in an unemployment health insurance is never automatic and must be addressed within a short time after termination of employment.

Types of coverage

While unemployment compensation is provided through the government, unemployment health insurance is provided through commercial health insurance companies. The term "unemployment health insurance" is generic and therefore may refer to one of several available insurance programs.

Some people who work for larger companies have the option of continuing their same health insurance for up to 18 months by paying the full cost of this coverage plus an administrative fee. This is commonly known as COBRA coverage. In some cases a similar program called "individual conversion coverage" is available. In either case the burden of enrollment and full payment of premiums is solely the responsibility of the terminated employee. Despite the obvious advantages in simplicity and continuity of coverage, few people can afford this option.

The most popular type of unemployment health insurance is short term major medical insurance. Despite the name, this insurance can span several years and eligibility requirements are minimal1. This insurance offers flexibility with high coverage limits. Policies can be renewed month-to-month from one month to six or twelve months. The two most important features of this coverage are that it is valid with all doctors and hospitals in the U.S. (no network required) and it provides a Certificate of Creditable Coverage2 to be used with your next employer's health insurance policy. This is important because it ensures that the new coverage immediately takes over the cost of treating pre-existing medical conditions.

Specialty insurance can be used in specific situations and regular individual major medical insurance is suitable when it is unlikely that there will be other employment in the future and the applicant is financially stable.

Shopping Tips

Plan to enroll in a bare-bones coverage rather than a fully loaded policy. Most people avoid incurring voluntary medical expenses while they are not employed so this insurance is primarily designed to cover large unexpected medical expenses. Also, because of the uncertainty of unemployment, it is smart to select an insurance that is less expensive than you think you can afford.

Short term medical insurance is priced at about 1/3 of the cost of your former insurance or COBRA option. For a typical employee, this means that the total cost of the unemployment health insurance will be approximately the same as the amount you were contributing to the employer's health plan through salary-deductions3.  Using his guideline, it may be psychologically comforting and aid in your personal financial planning to know that the total out-of-pocket cost of health insurance remains relatively constant from the period of employment to the period of unemployment.

All of the following insurance products provide strong protection against catastrophic losses and provide a Certificate of Creditable Coverage to ensure payment for pre-existing medical conditions on your next employer-provided health insurance plan. The price of the coverage varies and some products are better suited for specific situations. We suggest narrowing the list to two or three choices and then get online quotes for each product.

Use the online enrollment options available. This is faster and safer than a paper application and offers immediate confirmation of coverage.

Insurance Choices

All of the following choices are available a MedSave.com. They are grouped according to price range although price varies from one person to another based on location of residence, age, and sex.

Lowest cost unemployment policies - Celtic Insurance STM and UnitedHealthcare Golden Rule Insurance STM are often the least expensive insurance plans to cover a gap in group health insurance. Some of these plans keep cost down by using a "per cause" deductible rather than a single policy deductible.

Mid-range unemployment policies - Secure 3x12 (36 month) short term medical insurance, and Health Savings Account qualified health insurance for long term coverage.

Higher priced unemployment policies - Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, CelticCare


Special Situations

When specific medical conditions or circumstances exist then additional sources should be checked to determine the best coverage options. The special situations are: 1) when significant medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol exists, 2) applicant is a resident of MA, NJ, NY or VT, 3)non-US citizens, 4) residing in the U.S. les than a year, 5) previously declined for health insurance coverage, 6) applicant is overweight or 7) coverage is needed outside of the U.S. In all of these cases, see the article titled "Short Term Medical Insurance for Special Situations".

Individual help in selecting the best value insurance is available through OnlineAdviser at onlineadviser@medsave.com.



1 See the article "Am I Eligible for Short Term Medical Insurance" and "How Long Can I Be Covered by Short Term Medical Insurance" for details.

2 See the article "Understanding a Certificate of Creditable Coverage" for more information.

3 This assumes that the average employee contribution for employer-provided coverage is about 40% of the total cost.

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