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Q&A: Can I keep my health insurance after being fired?

Matthew Illian
by Matthew Illian, NAPFA (@MarottaOnMoney)

A pink slip can send you reeling. It is important to take care of some essential items while you regroup. Temporary health insurance should be a priority so you can search for a new job without the stress of being uninsured.

Assuming you were not fired for gross misconduct, most employer health insurance plans allow former employees to opt into COBRA for 18 months (although there are some exceptions allowing for a 36-month extension), but the cost is likely to shock you. COBRA allows you to stay on the company health insurance plan, but you lose your employer’s subsidy. If you thought the cost of health care was outrageous as an employee, just wait until you are left to pay the full bill.

READ: Understand your health insurance options

Shortly after finishing your employment, you should receive a letter from the benefits office offering you the option to continue your health coverage under COBRA, and you have 60 days to make this election. COBRA is especially beneficial to those with higher-than-average medical costs who would get charged a lot to buy their own individual health insurance policy. Those who are healthy should look into lower cost individual health plans for comparison. Individual health plans are actually pools of other people in your state in a similar demographic.

You many want to consider using the pink slip as an opportunity to launch your own business. If so, I recommend pairing a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA). A HDHP provides low-cost insurance and an HSA offers tax-preferenced savings accounts which help to pay for the routine expenses. Paired together, the HDHP and HSA  a powerful long-term solution, whereas COBRA is only for a limited time. 

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Matthew Illian, CFP, AIF, is an advisor at Marotta Wealth Management, Inc. Illian is a member of the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.