Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Managing During Tough Times: Meeting Health Insurance Needs


Many people rely on employer group health insurance to help ease the burden of medical costs. As unemployment continues to rise, people are looking for options to maintain health insurance coverage. The Stimulus Bill offers some additional help to people who involuntarily lost or will lose their job between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. Workers that become involuntarily unemployed during this 16-month period are able through COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) to continue the health care coverage they had through an employer. COBRA applies to group plans at companies that employ at least 20 people. The subsidy ends if the employee becomes eligible for Medicare or obtains coverage through a new employer.
Even if employees did not sign up for COBRA when they lost their job, they have 60 days to get the subsidy after being notified by their previous employer of their eligibility. Additional information on the new COBRA subsidy can be found at the link below to the Federal Department of Labor. http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm
Those not eligible for COBRA may be able to convert a group policy to individual coverage. Employers and the insurance companies can explain options.
Investigate buying insurance through another group such as a fraternal or civic organization, professional association or health maintenance organization. Group coverage is almost always cheaper than coverage by individual policies.
Since individual health insurance is very expensive compare several policies for the best coverage. Generally, it is wiser to choose a large deductible in order to lower premium costs. It is better to self insure against routine medical expenses and buy major medical insurance to cover unexpected, costly illnesses or emergencies. Avoid purchasing single disease policies or overlapping coverage.
If you have a high deductible policy—either purchased on your own or through your employer—explore the benefits of setting up a health savings account (HSA). For 2008, in order to qualify to open an HSA, your minimum deductible must be at least $1,100 (self-only coverage) or $2,200 (family coverage). You can tap the HSA to pay out-of-pocket medical interest and can be used in the future. For more information, check the website, http://www.treas.gov/offices/public-affairs/hsa/

For people without health insurance or those who can no longer pay the premiums for health insurance, there are some limited health services available. Locally, the Pinellas County Health Department would have information about health care programs provided at little or no cost. These include immunization programs, well baby clinics, blood pressure checks and other screening programs. Also, St. Petersburg Free and Clearwater Free Clinic provide some basic medical care as well.
Medicaid is generally available to families who receive government income assistance or to people over age 65 or people who are blind or disabled. Check with the local Health and Human Services Office for current medical assistance programs and income and resource guidelines.
For more information check out the following links below.



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Company and product listings do not represent endorsement by either: Pinellas County Extension, Pinellas County or the University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.