Licensed? Hours cut? You can benefit from free COBRA health insurance
Hello. I’m Madalyn Amato, replacing Rachel Schnalzer to bring you the weekly LA Times Business newsletter. Some benefits of the federal stimulus package passed last month are supposed to materialize automatically. But if you want to access this one, you have to act – the sooner the better.
Your guide to our new economic reality.
Receive our free business newsletter for information and tips on how to get by.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Under a provision of the American Rescue Plan Act that came into effect on April 1, Americans who have lost a job in the past 18 months can stay or join their former employer’s health care plan for free until September 30.
More than 2 million people could benefit from it, according to the Congress Budget Office.
The way it works is through the federally administered program known as COBRA. If you work in a company with more than 20 employees and you lose your job, you can stay on your employer-sponsored health insurance plan for 18 months through COBRA.
But under normal circumstances, COBRA can be much more expensive than employer sponsored insurance because instead of your employer covering part of the premium, you take the note. COBRA costs include your plan’s premium plus a 2% administration fee, which means this year you could have considered monthly spending of $ 635 if you’re single or $ 1,800 for a family, according to Thomas Rice, professor of health policy and management at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
But COBRA is now free until the end of September. Here’s what you need to know.
Who is eligible: The COBRA eligibility criteria include one of the following: “voluntary or involuntary loss of employment, reduction of hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce and other life events”, according to the US Department of Labor.
Under the relief bill, any eligible person who has involuntarily lost their job or health insurance or had their hours reduced in the past 18 months. A reduction in hours covers changing the hours of operation of the business, changing from full-time to part-time status, if you are taking temporary leave or if you have participated in a legal labor strike.
Benefits are available to everyone normally insurable under COBRA, that is, you and your family members who were already on your health plan.
Who does not qualify: Anyone who voluntarily left his job or chose to reduce his working hours. Additionally, if you have been fired for gross misconduct, you and your dependents are not eligible for COBRA.
If you already have health insurance, whether through the government or your employer, you are not eligible to join subsidized COBRA.
In addition, beneficiaries who have recently turned 26 (the age limit for dependents to remain on their parents’ health insurance) and former spouses who have lost their coverage due to divorce will not be able to benefit from free COBRA services but can expect cost reduction “On the market health insurance coverage through the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” according to the Department of Labor.
How to register: Typically, employers have 60 days to notify you of your COBRA eligibility.
If you are newly eligible under the relief bill, your employer is required to notify you by May 31, said Grant Vaught, a spokesperson for the Department of Labor. If your employer or the employment-based group health plan you were a part of does not notify you, the Department of Labor recommends contacting your employer to request information about your eligibility.
If your employer waits until the May 31 deadline to notify you, you could miss two months of free coverage. So UCLA Rice Said You Should contact your former employer as soon as possible to avoid losing benefits. If you are not in a hurry, you have until July 30 to register.
For those already enrolled in a COBRA plan, the subsidized premiums were to start April 1 and end September 30. The provision, however, does not extend the life of your policy beyond the normal 18 months.
In California, if your employer has 2 to 19 employees, you may be covered by Cal-COBRA. Cal-COBRA may also be able to extend your coverage if your federal COBRA plan has expired. To find out more, visit the State Department of Managed Health Care website.
Other things to know: Although the grant covers the premium of the health plan, you will still be responsible for copays and franchises.
If you sign up for subsidized COBRA, you can keep it beyond September 30, but you will have to pay the premiums after this date. After the grant period ends, you may become eligible for Medicaid or coverage through the health insurance market, according to the Department of Labor.
Coverage under subsidized COBRA is not retroactive. If you were insured by COBRA before April 1, medical costs and premium costs incurred before that date are not refundable, depending on the Department of Labor.
If at any time between April 1 and September 30 you paid for COBRA in full but were eligible for free coverage, you may be entitled to a refund or credit. Contact the plan administrator or the employer sponsoring the plan.
If you do not qualify or cannot afford COBRA, you may have other options.
◆ The Affordable Care Act market plans may be cheaper than COBRA. health.gov; (800) 318-2596.
◆ California residents can use Covered California, the state’s Affordable Care Act Marketplace. couvertureca.com; (800) 300-1506.
◆ Insurance benefits only for children may be available. insurekidsnow.gov; (877) 543-7669.
Other stories you may find useful
◆ Banking can be expensive, especially for low-wage workers. Margot Roosevelt explains new legislation that, if passed, would give Californians access to free financial services.
◆ There is a racial gap in marketing By banks and payday lenders: Bank marketing shows white people a lot more, new study finds. Columnist David Lazarus takes a look at the research.
◆ The IRS is begging people do not file an amended tax return to adjust to the effects of the latest stimulus package – except in certain cases. Certified Financial Planner Liz Weston explain why.
◆ Speaking of taxes, here is Everything you need to know on filing this year.
◆ Amazon employees in an Alabama warehouse voted against unionization. Suhauna Hussain and Jenny Jarvie report on what the results mean.
◆ About a hundred CEOs gathered last weekend to discuss oppose anti-voting laws in state legislatures. Don’t expect them to do anythingwrites columnist Michael Hiltzik.
◆ Need a little more money? Kathy Kristof explains how find a job extra in a movie or TV show.
One more thing
Aliso Canyon, the site of a Southern California Gas Co. storage field, suffered a record-breaking leak in 2015 that sickened residents of Los Angeles’ Porter Ranch neighborhood and evacuated thousands of people.
Last week my colleague Sammy Roth reported that another SoCalGas storage field on the west side of Los Angeles may pose a much bigger threat than Aliso Canyon.
Many more people live within miles of the storage field, located in Playa del Rey, than Aliso Canyon – meaning the health and economic consequences of a major eruption could be worse.
SoCalGas insists both facilities are safe and necessary to meet energy needs, but campaigners point to research that shows serious health risks to life near oil and gas infrastructure. “If something like Aliso Canyon were to happen there, it could really be quite tragic,” Harvard researcher Drew Michanowicz told Roth. Read the full story.
Have a question about work, business, or finance during the COVID-19 pandemic, or tips for dealing with it that you’d like to share? Email us at [email protected], and we may include it in a future newsletter.