Saturday, January 10, 2009

Few People Can Afford COBRA


I don't know how much my unemployment check will be since I won't get the first one for awhile. However, in reading my separation papers, I found out that if I sign up for COBRA benefits from work, the cost to me for premiums alone is about $440 a month, if I keep dental and vision too. I can shave it down to just under $400 a month for medical only. I will still have to pay a $1000 annual deductible before any medical benefits, and still have co-pays for office visits, prescription drugs, etc. Most of us who are unemployed will not be able to afford COBRA.

There certainly are plenty of alternatives around, but I'm going to keep COBRA for awhile to see if the new President and Congress come up with some alternatives. If I take an alternative and there is help passed for people on COBRA, then I would lose out. I can always opt for a private alternative later. I foresee that I will likely need my own health insurance for quite awhile since many of the few jobs available now seem to be contract positions with no health care benefits. I'm not eligible for Medicare for over 3 1/2 more years.
The cost of buying health insurance for unemployed Americans who try to purchase coverage through a former employer consumes 30 percent to 84 percent of standard unemployment benefits, according to a report released yesterday.

Because few people can afford that, the authors say, the result is a growing number of people being hit with the double whammy of no job and no health coverage.

In 1985, Congress passed legislation enabling newly unemployed Americans to extend their employer-based health insurance for up to 18 months. But under the program, known as COBRA, the individual must pay 102 percent of the policy's full cost.

"COBRA health coverage is great in theory and lousy in reality," said Ron Pollack, whose liberal advocacy group, Families USA, published the analysis. "For the vast majority of workers who are laid off, they and their families are likely to join the ranks of the uninsured." [Washington Post]
My hope is that Obama and Congress make this problem a high priority.
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