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I’m leaving my job – what happens to my health insurance?

If you’re considering engaging a professional resume writing service, you’ve probably already had a job change, or expect to have one soon. This guide will help you consider the implications of one of the biggest questions anyone makes when changing jobs: What happens to my health insurance?

What follows is not legal advice. Use this information as a guide to ask questions of a qualified benefits professional.

Like it or not, anytime you change jobs in the United States, one of your primary concerns is going to be, what happens to your health insurance. This question has political implications that are a topic for another time. But for now, know that if your employment is ending, you have limited time to make a complex decision.

Let’s assume that you’re leaving one job to take another, both employers offer group health insurance plans, and you plan on enrolling in your new employer’s insurance plan.

Ask your previous employer: When does your old coverage end? Policies vary. Don’t assume your coverage goes through the last day of the month. It might end on your last day of work. Or, it might go through the last day of your final pay period. 

Ask your new employer: When does your new insurance start? Here again, policies vary. It’s often the first day of the next month, but it might be your first day of work, or there might be a waiting period of a month or two. If there’s a waiting period, you’ll want to decide whether you need gap coverage.

Coverage during the gap could take the form of a short-term individual policy with a high-deductible that will cover you in case of a major illness or catastrophe. Or, it could take the form of continuing your previous coverage under your old employer’s plan via COBRA. (Check out my guide on COBRA for more information.)

Once you confirm when your new coverage starts, ask your employer for the most current SBC (Summary of Benefits & Coverage) for each of the plans they offer. These plan summaries will help you understand how the plans work, and will be useful as you compare your options. Also, ask for their rate sheet so you know how much each plan will cost you in payroll deductions. And make sure you know your new pay frequency (twice a month isn’t the same as biweekly). Other considerations: 

  • Are your doctors, hospitals, and other providers in the new plan’s provider network?
  • What are the new plan’s cost-sharing features (deductibles, copays, coinsurance)?
  • Can you enroll all of your dependents, too? (Do you need domestic partner coverage? Not all employers offer this.)
  • If the plan has a high deductible, is there a companion HRA or an HSA? (Beyond the scope of this discussion, but an important thing to know as you’re evaluating plan options)
  • Is the deductible based on the plan year, or the calendar year? (For example, if you start in November, does your deductible reset on January 1?)
  • When is annual open enrollment? Don’t assume it’s January 1. (If it’s soon after your hire date, ask the deductible question above, too.)

Here are some Pro Tips to help you make your decision:

Pro Tip #1: Just because you can still be covered under your parent’s health plan doesn’t mean you should. If you’re under 26 and the last child left on their insurance, terminating your coverage from their plan could mean big cost savings for them. It’s time to fly from the nest, little birdie. Do your homework.

Pro Tip #2: The highest cost plan doesn’t always offer the “best” coverage. I know, that’s what your dad always told you to choose. Dad isn’t necessarily right in this case. Do your research and ask questions so you’re sure you’re getting the coverage you need without over-insuring yourself.

Pro Tip #3: A thorough analysis includes both your fixed cost (the amount you pay via payroll deductions) as well as your variable cost (how much you pay out of pocket if/when you use services). You might have a plan with higher payroll deductions that requires less out of pocket (lower copays and deductibles, for example). Another plan option might cost less in payroll deductions, but more if you use services. If you’re young and healthy, you might be willing to pay less in fixed costs in exchange for the possibility you won’t use much in the way of services (variable cost).

Pro Tip #4: If you use a doctor who is not in the plan’s provider network, take time to understand your plan’s out-of-network benefits. Most plans have a higher deductible, and a provision where the insurance plan will exclude charges in excess of what they would allow if the doctor were in the network. While ideally, cost should not be anyone’s primary decision point when selecting quality medical care, but you should be aware of the added costs if you go out of network. Proceed with eyes wide open.

Finally: The plan you enroll in when you’re first eligible is the one you’ll keep until the plan’s annual open enrollment. Unless, you have a “qualifying event” that opens a “special enrollment period” in the middle of the plan year. Even then, you can usually only add or drop coverage for yourself or your dependents – you typically can’t switch from one plan option to another. 

As you can see, it’s a bit more complicated than just filling out an enrollment form and waiting for your new ID card to arrive in the mail. Take time to do your research and ask questions so you make the best decision for you, all things considered.

One last thought: The plan you choose when you’re first hired might not be the best one for you as you move through life. Savvy consumers review their plan options regularly – at least annually – with their current life circumstances in mind.

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