By Steve Dorfman
Are you gearing up for a job change?
You’re not alone. Every year, millions of Americans voluntarily change employers. Millions more change jobs involuntarily. It’s a good idea to plan for the day when you’ll be forced to look for a new job, even if you can’t imagine yourself working for anyone else right now.
Prepping for a new job is a daunting task that presents a slew of logistical headaches.
“One issue that you absolutely can’t overlook — and should begin planning for at your earliest possible convenience — is health insurance.” — Steve Dorfman
Specifically, what you’ll do when your employer-sponsored health insurance plan is no longer available.
These seven indispensable insurance resources all have their place. Your next job search won’t demand all seven, but you’ll definitely want to know which to use before you have to scramble for coverage or information.
Healthcare.gov is the public face of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. If you’re looking for initial guidance about what to do, and when, during your job switch, it’s as good a place as any to start. Healthcare.gov also has a wealth of information about your various plan options, including the different plan types and levels (“metals”) available in your area. While you should always consult with a health insurance expert directly before making consequential decisions, Healthcare.gov is a great place to set your expectations and gather basic information.
2. Your State Health Insurance Marketplace
Not all states have health insurance marketplaces, but many do. (The Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange is a representative example.) State health insurance marketplaces are great places to find health insurance information (and plans) specific to your domicile. Again, they’re not necessarily one-stop shops — you’ll want to speak with a health insurance expert and look to other potential sources of health insurance in your state.
3. The Federal Health Insurance Marketplace
If your state doesn’t have its own health insurance marketplace, you can use the federal health insurance marketplace (accessible through Healthcare.gov) to find coverage. The process of actually sorting through different plans is quite confusing, so you’ll want to consult with an expert if you get stuck.
4. Coverage Under COBRA
Many job-changers choose to temporarily continue employer-sponsored coverage under COBRA, a federal law that provides key health insurance protections for individuals facing temporary unemployment.
According to the Department of Labor, COBRA “gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events.”
COBRA’s major downside is its cost: covered individuals may be required to pay up to 102 percent of the plan’s cost. That often results in dramatic premium increases for individuals whose plan premiums were partially or fully covered by their employers.
5. Health Savings Accounts
Not everyone has a health savings account, and not everyone is a good fit for one besides. If you do have an HSA, though, it may help cover healthcare-related expenses during your job transition (and after). If you’re not sure how to handle your HSA during the transition, seek guidance from an expert.
6. Flexible Savings Accounts
As the name suggests, a flexible savings account is an all-purpose (almost) employer-sponsored fringe benefit that can help cover certain medical expenses. FSAs come with strict time limits, however, so it’s important that you decide what to do with your FSA balance before leaving your job.
7. Short-Term Health Insurance
Short-term health insurance plans provide temporary, affordable coverage during coverage gaps, including periods of unemployment. Short-term plans don’t meet Affordable Care Act guidelines, but they’re nevertheless crucial for relatively healthy patients looking to reduce downside risk in worst-case situations, such as catastrophic injuries or illnesses.
Need More Help?
Changing jobs is stressful enough by itself. Finding the right health insurance plan to complement your new gig is one more headache you don’t need.
To make matters worse, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to select the right plan for your needs. Were there, health insurance would be a whole lot easier to find.
Fortunately, help is on the horizon. With the right health insurance partner on your side, the vast and often contradictory world of health insurance seems a whole lot simpler. If you’re looking for honest advice about the best health insurance plans for your needs, find that partner today. Everything that comes next will be a breeze.
Steve Dorfman is the founder and current CEO of two Florida-based firms: Simple Health and Simple Insurance Leads.