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You’ve Lost Your Job And Your Health Insurance

Most employees rely on their employers to provide health insurance. The problem is that when the job ends, so does the insurance. Under a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), employees are entitled to continue their health insurance at their own expense for up to 18 months. There are some potential extensions of the 18-month period, for example if the employee becomes disabled shortly after losing the job or if the health insurance policy is issued under the laws of the State of New York.

Unfortunately, health insurance is expensive and unless the employer promises otherwise, the continuation must be done at the former employee’s expense (plus a small administrative charge that the employer has a right to tack on). On the other hand, if a serious illness arises while someone is uninsured, the expenses involved in medical care could be extraordinary. In deciding whether to take on the expense of COBRA, consider whether you could be covered under someone else’s insurance, such as a spouse or a parent, the quality of that coverage, and whether the cost would cost less than your COBRA premiums.

COBRA applies to employers of 20 or more employees, but New York State mini- COBRA covers smaller employers. Under these laws, the employer must give the departing employee written COBRA notice setting forth the premiums the employee would have to pay and the deadlines for accepting the coverage. This notice should be received by the employee within 14 days, if the employer is the plan administrator, and otherwise 44 days after the termination. The employee must accept the offer of insurance continuation within 60 days of the notice and must pay the initial premium within 45 days of accepting COBRA. Until COBRA is elected, the insurance may be suspended but it will be retroactively reinstated if all the deadlines are met and payments are timely made. Greater detailed explanation is available at

Sometimes employment attorneys who represent the employee in departure negotiations are able to persuade the employer to pay some or all of the COBRA premiums as part of a severance agreement.

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