Step 1: Talk to your HR department
Find out from your HR department how long the coverage that you’ve already paid for will last. Often they carry you through the month of your termination. Pursue a new insurance plan immediately so you don’t have what’s called a “lapse in coverage.” Don’t wait until the day your old policy runs out to apply for a new one.
Step 2: Suss out your spouse’s policy
Hopping onto your spouse’s health insurance plan may make the most sense. Even though most companies have time-specific open enrollment periods, a job change or loss is considered a “qualifying event,” which means you may sign up for their plan at any time. Also note that depending on your spouse’s company, their premium could go up because you’re becoming a dependent on their plan (sorry, in this case, you’re considered more baggage). Your new insurer may also inquire about a preexisting medical condition, even if it’s just physical therapy for your knee injury (more baggage). They may exclude you from coverage on that medical issue for 12 months, so you’ll have to pay out of pocket until then.
Step 3: Consider Cobra
While you’re looking into your spouse’s plan, also consider Cobra. It lets you pay group health insurance rates even though you’re not part of the group (i.e., your company) anymore. Plus, it saves you dough under Obama’s new stimulus package. If you lost your job after last September 1 and your and your spouse’s combined income is less than $250,000 per year, you only pay 35 percent of the Cobra premium for the first nine months of your coverage. The rest is on the government’s tab! If your company has more than 20 employees and provides health care benefits, you’re likely eligible for Cobra coverage, so go to CobraInsurance.com for details.