I’m writing this to hopefully save someone from having as bad of a day as I’ve just had. You see, I started a new job on July 3. My new health insurance starts August 1. My former employer terminated my coverage on July 2. COBRA is intended to fill gaps like that, but all I have is a promise that my COBRA paperwork will show up someday. My former employer didn’t send the COBRA paperwork, just a promise that it was coming. Famous last words, you know.
That promise doesn’t help when my wife needs insulin today. And when my current employer doesn’t know what to do, my old employer won’t answer the phone, and my old insurance company doesn’t know what to do either, that’s enough to ruin your day.
What I didn’t know was that COBRA doesn’t work that way.
When your insurance lapses, you have 60 days to buy COBRA. It’s retroactive. So if 60 days goes by and you don’t need it, you don’t have to buy it. But if you do, buy it and then file those expenses. Just be sure to save all your receipts and statements. If your employer doesn’t provide the COBRA paperwork within 45 days, you can report them to the Department of Labor, who will fine them severely.
COBRA is expensive, so it pays to wait to see if you’re going to need it. Paying out of pocket for a few things is likely to be cheaper than carrying COBRA. But you have a little time to figure that out.
I’d have felt a lot better if that answer was out there somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. It also would have been nice if that paper I got in the mail promising the paperwork was in the mail would have said that, but nobody asked me. I guess it comes down to whether you regard former employees as assets who might come back when the time and circumstances are right, or as the enemy.