Life After COBRA

My husband left his corporate job 19 months ago, took a consulting contract as part of our organization, Xceptional HR and with it left our employee benefits. Our family took advantage of COBRA known as the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act.  When employees and their families leave their places of employment or experience a benefit status changes such as death, divorce, and job transition, they have the option to continue under their previous employers group health insurance coverage for an extended period of time which in my case was 18 months.

Life After COBRA

Under COBRA, our family had to pay 102% of the total cost of health insurance which includes the expense our family was responsible for as an employee plus what the company covers plus a two percent administrative fee.  The total cost was approximately $850 for our family of 3.

In my experience, employees and former employees are often surprised at how expensive benefits under COBRA actually can be.  I, however was not.  COBRA provides employees and former employees the opportunity to continue their health insurance and their health insurance alone.  And because of my experience as a HR practitioner and someone who has oversaw benefit plans in the past, I knew exactly what to expect.  Or so I thought.

What I was not prepared for was the group health insurance I would have to negotiate for myself and my husband as employees of our organization.  The process for our company involved a sea of paperwork, legal documents, and financial statements and reports before even being approved.  One of the benefits of being a small organization with two full-time employees, is that in the state of Oklahoma we are eligible to receive group health care insurance.  So I am thankful.

Group health care insurance is a company sponsored health insurance and benefit plan.  Employers and employees are both eligible for special tax incentives and benefits as part of a group health insurance plan.  This differs from individual health insurance where the individual or individuals is responsible for the cost and expense of the health insurance plan.  Insurance companies often times require individuals to undergo a medical examination prior to their plans being approved and often times exceptions or ryders are put in place making the persons receiving the coverage responsible for medical expenses based on their previous medical history.

And for the many Americans who look to individual health insurance plans, they can be extremely expensive.  If I was to have selected individual health insurance, my family would be responsible for a $1200 a month charge.  Maternity benefits would not be included and because of the emergency C-section I had previously when my daughter was born, the insurance company would not cover any these expenses for future children.  But for an additional fee they would provide maternity benefits leading up to the actual childbirth.  My family and I, however, would be saddled with the $20,000 cost of the cesarian birth.

I’m here to tell you that there’s life after COBRA.  This is my family’s second month on our new group health care plan.  It’s important to get the facts and do the research long before you launch a new business or experience a benefit status change.  Doing so makes the process easier to prepare for and understand.  Because situations like these can be scary so its essential to arm yourself with the information to make an informed decision.  Consider working with a local insurance agent, reading your company’s health insurance plan, learning about COBRA costs, or talking with your company’s human resource professional.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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Comments

  1. AvatarCOBRA insurance and Obamacare says

    Jessica,

    Excellent points. I feel your pain about the reams of paperwork you must fill out. The promise that will only get worse under Obamacare. In fact, employer will have to find out (somehow) the employee’s total household income, making compliance even harder. This millions will be sent to the shop exchange is our Medicaid, group health insurance may be a dinosaur in a few years. Because with adverse selection, many of the health insurance companies could be in real trouble. The health you can continue your group health insurance benefits, and let me know what your experiences with Obamacare. Thank you, Craig Casey

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks for the comment. Anything government regulated or involved involves paperwork. That being said my healthcare paperwork was not near as much as purchasing my house. Then again, the cost is a fraction of what my home purchase price was. This post wasn’t written to debate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Obamacare. Just sharing my point of view regarding employees who opt for COBRA insurance and the cost associated with it, other group insurance programs and individual health care plans.

      JMM

  2. AvatarBeth Anne says

    I hate not having insurance 🙁 I haven’t had any since 2005. Today for example my wisdom teeth is killing me which makes my ear hurt and gives me a headache 🙁 which makes me not even want to look for a job. Which won’t get fixed till I get a job..if they even offer benefits.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Anne,

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t had insurance for so very long. My suggest to your wisdom tooth and this is a temporary fix. . . lots of white wine. It does the trick for me.

      JMM

  3. AvatarKim Hollenshead says

    Great post about a topic that not many people truly understand. Since you and I have the background from the other side of the desk, I too, when faced with using COBRA was not nearly as shocked as many people are when it comes to their own lives. Fortunately, my most recent COBRA experience came under a subsidized plan and made things a bit easier than the normal full 102% amount.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Kim,

      Agreed. I’ve worked in HR for a long time so I wasn’t surprised about the cost of the 102% I would be responsible for paying during COBRA. I hope this post can help others prepare when they leave their job or make a status change to help subsidize the expense.

      Thank you for the comment.

      JMM

  4. AvatarJENS THOMASON says

    This is a great blog post – I enjoyed reading it & gained a lot – on a side note, I am turning big 40 – yes yes ! I know getting old but that’s a part of life. I am actually quite blessed with a good family & very obedient kids; anyways – as the 40 is hitting I am realizing that I have not done a great job with my retirement planning. One of my wife’s cousin is a an agent with Bankers Life and Casualty so I reached out to him over the last weekend – it seems that they have great products from life insurance to annuities & they work with individuals to provide great service & plan for the retirement. Does anyone here had any experience &/or know any other companies whom I should checkout before signing up with Bankers Life and Casualty Company. Any feedbacks will a great help – just FYI – I am planning to retire at/around 68 yrs of the age.

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