Open Enrollment for health insurance is here, and if you’re currently receiving health insurance through an old employer, you may be wondering what it means for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
COBRA Time limits
Your COBRA coverage is time-limited and will end after either 18 or 36 months, depending on your situation.
When it ends, you will have up to 60 days to enroll in new coverage under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), since losing your prior coverage is considering a qualifying event for a special enrollment.
If you don't enroll promptly after losing your coverage, you may be locked out of Obamacare coverage until the next Open Enrollment period, which is usually in November, with coverage starting the next January.
This means you do not have to enroll right now in new coverage unless your COBRA is running out soon.
Group plans vs. the individual market
When you are covered through COBRA, you are accessing group health insurance through your prior employer. When you buy a plan through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), you are buying coverage as an individual.
Generally, the coverage available to individuals is more limited - for example, Obamacare plans tend to be in-network only, use smaller, regional networks, and have larger deductibles. They are also facing larger rate increases this year.
How can you keep accessing group coverage after COBRA? Some savvy freelancers are able to enroll in group health insurance through their freelance business and continue to access PPO coverage with a national network.
How does it work?
Your freelance business hires an organization to manage your HR needs - including benefits. You pay them a monthly fee and put yourself on their payroll. Now you've gained access to all of their group benefits along with the employees of all their other clients.
Finding an organization like this to serve individual sole proprietors can be tricky, however Freelancers Union has found one in New York and you can learn more about them here.