COBRA & the Current Economy: What Happens When Your Company Goes Under?

If you’re terminated from your job or otherwise lose your employment, you automatically become eligible for COBRA coverage. But it’s not given to you. You have to elect it, and then you’re responsible for its hefty premiums. You also have a deadline for electing coverage and cannot miss a payment without running the risk of plan termination. COBRA also only lasts a set amount of time, so it’s important individuals are looking down the road to their post-COBRA coverage decisions.

Most people also don’t realize that if their former company goes out of business, COBRA coverage will die with it. If there’s no plan, there’s no COBRA. That also means if all the employees under a plan leave or are laid off, that plan—and its associated COBRA benefits—can be terminated.

And then what do you do?

Well, you’ve got to go find your own insurance. And people scramble—especially those with preexisting conditions. They’re all wondering, “How do I secure health insurance for my family?

The reality is people who are considered “uninsurable” by carriers don’t have many options. They either need to find a new job with group coverage or start their own business. (A business owner with at least two employees can secure a guaranteed-issue group plan). Unfortunately, a lot of people are otherwise uninsurable in a market that has only gotten more difficult. Carrier underwriters are extremely picky right now in terms of whom they’ll insure for individual/family coverage.

The most important thing for people in any of these scenarios to know is there are affordable options out there. People just aren’t aware how to find them … or if they’re eligible … or where to look. They should be getting help from their broker to do so—and to discuss all the options and strategies available to someone in their specific situation.

People should also be sure to use their broker for regular reviews of their individual plan to make sure it’s still the best option (with realistic premium levels) for current circumstances. When individual/family plan premiums skyrocket, a lot of times that person is eligible for a free transfer to a more affordable plan under the same carrier. Importantly, that switch can be made without having to again go through the underwriting process. Carriers just aren’t always quick to volunteer that information.

These are all issues and questions that a broker can answer in minutes, as opposed to the hours or days that it may take someone to call customer service lines and do research on their own. There are ways to secure coverage or lower premiums, but people need the help of a good broker to know how.

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COBRA Implications of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. The Act has wide-reaching ramifications, and we want to make sure you’re aware of the latest developments affecting health insurance.

The Act includes a subsidy for COBRA premiums for a period up to nine months for certain employees that were involuntarily relieved from their job from September 1, 2008, through December 31, 2009.

The COBRA subsidy covers 65 percent of the applicable COBRA premium, initially covered by the employer or the insurer and recouped through payroll tax credits. The remaining 35 percent will be the responsibility of the qualified beneficiary.

The COBRA subsidy becomes effective March 1, 2009. It imposes new COBRA administration and notice requirements on plan sponsors, in addition to those involved with the reimbursement process.

Download this PDF developed by one of our partners for more detailed information. The PDF is intended to provide initial guidance to plan sponsors. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended to interpret laws or regulations or to address specific client situations. The document will be revised as additional information becomes available from insurance carriers and government entities.

There are still many questions surrounding the Act and just how many of the elements will work. For those using Stephenson Welsh Insurance Services, we will continue to stay on top of all the latest developments associated with insurance coverages. We will keep you informed about any changes that might affect you and proactively bring to you any opportunities we see emerging.

The next update will likely come sometime after the U.S. Department of Labor report on this topic on March 19.

If you have any questions or need immediate attention, please call us toll-free (1-866-514-0144) or send us an e-mail.

To the best of our knowledge, based on available resources, the attached piece has been prepared with the intention of providing initial guidance to plan sponsors via the broker. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended to interpret laws or regulations or to address specific client situations. The information contained within may also change or be added to with new issuances by government agencies and/or insurance carriers. By redistributing this piece, Stephenson Welsh Insurance Services is released from all liability.

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