Employment can come and go, many times without advance notification to employees. Before a layoff or period of termination, ask your company’s benefits department for information regarding COBRA. COBRA is a temporary insurance plan (designed not to exceed 18 months) for people who were previously employed but lost their job. COBRA allows people previously employed to purchase individual health insurance or a family health insurance policy, but with a high price. Individual policies can cost as much as $4000+ per year while family policies can cost as much as $15,000+ per year. An alternative to COBRA is to contact your current health insurance company directly and ask for a hospital-only plan. These are less expensive than traditional full-coverage insurance plans and cover hospital stays. Some also have add-on options like emergency care, prescription coverage and/or vision care. Before purchasing a health insurance plan, keep reading to see if other options or a combination of options will serve your family best.
Many states offer immediate help to children based on income. If your family’s income will be or now is under $35,000 per year (based on a family of four) contact your state’s Department of Children and Family Services. Your family may be eligible for a free or low-cost insurance policy to cover all children’s services including dental and vision care. For those that have to pay, monthly premiums for each child usually range between $15-$35; which is substantially less than a traditional health insurance policy. Additionally, if food stamps or government assistance is received, enroll your child in any free services offered at his/her school like the dental van (dental screenings/teeth cleanings), or vision care clinic. Discuss with your child’s school nurse about the availability of these programs to see if your child is eligible.
If a new job prospect is in the near future, consider purchasing a temporary health insurance policy through a broker. There are two types of health “insurance” usually sold: a traditional policy or a healthcare discount card. One is insurance while the other is a discounted fee-for-service plan. Look into both options but do not purchase anything until all physicians and pharmacies have been contacted to verify acceptance and co-pays. Often times, the healthcare discount card will have a higher payment, but when weighed against monthly healthcare premiums actually ends up costing less money.
While it may not be your own family doctor, utilize walk-in clinics. Acute-care clinics are often less expensive than doctor or emergency visits and perform many of the same services. Strep throat cultures, x-rays, broken bones and general illnesses are some of the services many acute-care clinics perform for a flat fee-for-service price. Visit clinics in your area and compare prices for services. Be sure to set aside the highest amount required for at least two visits if choosing to eliminate health insurance and pay case for each individual visit. When visiting, don’t be afraid to ask the doctor for prescription samples. The medication may or may not be on hand. If not, explain your situation and ask for a drug that comes in generic.
Sometimes this is skipped, but checking your auto insurance policy is very relevant for those without immediate health coverage. Verify that your personal injury coverage is up-to-date and that deductibles/plan limits are within means. This is especially important for people electing to forgo health insurance until a change in employment status.
As mentioned earlier, shop around and customize options tailored to your needs. Calculate which option can save you the most money by mixing and matching. Dental discount plans, $4 generic medications at selected pharmacies, fee-for-service urgent care centers and hospital-only plans are some of the options designed to help customize a health insurance benefit package to help ease the loss of income during a period or unemployment or job loss. When calculating plans/options, take into consideration monthly premiums, services covered, plan limits, co-pays and physician network.