More than 26 million Americans didn't have health insurance at some point last year. That's a big problem for those who experienced health issues and had to endure the stress of paying for their medical procedures out of pocket. 

Many people get their health insurance through their employer. If the employment changes, and the insurance goes away, they often think they have no other options until the next open enrollment period for private insurance. But this isn't fully the case. Most often, a person can get COBRA Health Insurance.

Insurance can be a tricky thing to understand, so we've broken down this option for you with the top nine things you need to know about COBRA coverage.  

1. COBRA Coverage Basics

COBRA coverage is different than a lot of other insurance options because it basically boils down to having the ability to keep the coverage you had after you've lost your job. 

While you won't have the same price (since the employer isn't handling their portion anymore), you'll be able to see the same providers and have the same coverage for a certain period of time. This gives you the opportunity to be covered until the next open enrollment period comes along. 

COBRA may not be the cheapest option but it's often the most convenient immediately following job loss. 

2. Dependent Qualifications

Under your insurance health plans with your employer, it's likely that certain dependents were covered as well. This most often includes spouses and children under a certain age. But it could also include an older child with special needs or an elderly family member.

In most cases, those who were dependents from your previous coverage will be approved as dependents on your COBRA coverage. There may be additional paperwork but it shouldn't be an overall problem. 

3. Overall Cost 

The specific cost for your new COBRA plan will depend on the specifics of your plan before your job loss. The COBRA plan will essentially cost the same but you'll be responsible for the whole price instead of splitting it. 

Additionally, there are occasionally some additional fees tacked on but the overall cost can't exceed 102% of the previous cost. 

Depending on specific circumstances, you may also qualify for subsidies or discounts which can be given through government programs. Your insurance agent can help you get the most economical option available. 

4. Special Enrollment Periods 

While COBRA coverage is great for those who are unemployed, unfortunately, it can't last forever. COBRA policies can only last for 18 months. It's intended to tide you over until you can either get a different private insurance plan or coverage from a new job. 

The biggest benefit of COBRA health plans is that you can enroll anytime after a qualifying event (losing your job), even if that falls outside of the private insurance enrollment periods. There's no need to have any downtime before you're covered again. 

5. Timeline for Coverage 

Another huge added benefit of getting COBRA coverage is that it kicks in on the date of the qualifying event if you choose. So you never have to go uninsured because the coverage from your employer will end the day before your COBRA coverage begins. 

You also have 60 days after the qualifying event to decide whether these health plans are the right ones for you and explore your options. But make sure not to miss this deadline or else you'll be out of luck until the next open enrollment period. 

6. Healthcare Specifics 

Since vision and dental coverage are usually separate from health insurance, many often wonder if they're included in any COBRA coverage they may get. 

The great news is that COBRA health plans are required to give you the same coverage that you had previously, including all the sub-plans as well. So you'll be able to see all of your providers regardless of if they fall under your main plan or not. 

7. Local Regulations 

For the most part, getting a COBRA health plan is a pretty straightforward process with little variance. But occasionally you'll run into a local regulation that's unique to the area. 

The most common difference comes in who is eligible for these plans. Sometimes the employer you had before doesn't fit under the national eligibility requirements. But this is the time to check your local laws because often they cover a much broader range of employers to get more people the coverage they need. 

8. Ways to Lose Coverage 

It's important to note that just because you get cobra coverage doesn't mean you'll be able to keep it. We've mentioned the length of time you'll likely be covered before needing to find a different option. But there are other ways to lose coverage as well. 

The main, and most common, is not paying your premiums in full every month. 

Once you are enrolled in cobra coverage, you are responsible for the whole premium and any medical bills that come up. It's really important to understand what your cost will be before agreeing to ensure that you can afford it and won't risk losing it. 

9. Application Process 

The application process to get COBRA coverage is best done with the help of an insurance agent. The professional will be able to walk you through the entire process and help make sure you check all of the boxes correctly to get your coverage quickly. 

A key part of the application will be going over the previous health plan and proving that you were covered and that the plan is still being offered to current employees. 

Finding the Right COBRA Health Insurance for You 

Getting the right health insurance coverage can be a stressful situation. There are so many options, it's hard to know how to pick the right one. But COBRA Health Insurance is often a great option for those in-between jobs who want to keep their previous coverage. 

Working with a professional insurance agent will help you to get everything you need and make sure the whole process goes as smoothly as possible. If you're in need of new insurance coverage and have questions, contact us today!

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