Medical Insurance Musts for the Newly Unemployed

Once upon a time, it was supposed that we humans only needed shelter, water, food and air to survive. Anyone who’s ever had to pay out-of-pocket for a medical procedure or hospital stay will tell you to add medical insurance coverage to the survival check list.

If you have a job, chances are good that some or all of your health insurance policy is covered by your employer. But if you’re newly unemployed and not a trust fund baby, you’re going to need low-cost health insurance. If you have pre-existing conditions, you’re going to need it ASAP. Here are some things you need to know, if you are not eligible for COBRA insurance coverage.

Be sure to save the Certificate of Creditable Coverage (CCC) your health insurance provider sends you (usually within 30 days of plan termination). Be sure you review it, too. If anything is inaccurate, including the spelling of your name, get it corrected immediately. If you don’t get a CCC, call and request it. This is proof that you’ve had continuous medical insurance coverage for at least 18 months, which eliminates the need to satisfy another waiting period to obtain new medical insurance. That’s critically important if you have a pre-existing condition or two. Your creditable coverage status is good for 60 days from termination. It’s part of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) intended to protect you from, among other things, becoming a de facto medical insurance indentured servant to your employer.

The same HIPAA pretty much guarantees your right to purchase individual medical insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions if you have no group medical insurance coverage available and can’t get or have maxed out COBRA. It does not, however, guarantee that it will be low-cost health insurance. Which necessitates a quick FYI about the legal definition of a pre-existing conditions. It’s “any medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment recommended or received during the six-month period prior to an individual’s enrollment date.” It can drive up the cost of your individual medical insurance premium or exclude you from a new employer’s health insurance plan for up to 12 months (18 for late enrollees. So if your current job situation is shaky (for instance, they’ve canceled free coffee service and taken away the rented lobby plants), don’t create any unnecessary pre-existing conditions. In other words, put off that elective bunion surgery till you’re sure what the future holds insurance-wise.


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