This isn’t about cats! (They’re all good.)
For anyone not familiar, COBRA benefits are group medical and dental insurance benefits employers offer to employees terminated by their company, voluntarily or involuntarily. You pay for the benefits, but it’s covered under the company’s group plan so you get pretty awesome insurance that you very likely won’t qualify for or be able to afford on your own. If you are involuntarily terminated you most likely qualify for an extremely reduced rate for COBRA.
Back when I lived in Vermont I made the decision to voluntarily terminate my employment so that I could move to Queens to find a new job and an apartment to live in with the kitties and Dawg. I had tried to find both while still living in Vermont but employers in NYC are skeptical about the intentions of people who don’t live here, and landlords are skeptical about people who don’t have jobs here — a catch-22. At that time I was offered COBRA at 100% of the cost because the termination was my choice, in legalese referred to as “voluntary”.
I paid almost $500 each month for six months for insurance until I became eligible for insurance through my new job (3 months unemployed, then 3 months more from my job start date until I was eligible). 6 months x $500 = $3000 out of pocket. While making no money for the first 3 months. That wasn’t a pleasant monetary situation. But I lived through it, and continued my streak of never, ever having been without health insurance as far as I know.
Then in April 2010 I learned that I would be let go on the very last day that my company existed in its prior-to-bankruptcy form, despite the company being bought out and reincarnated into a new company. Because COBRA was not added into the bidding process for my company’s acquisition, anyone let go prior to the company’s reincarnation date was informed that no COBRA benefits would be offered.
I was told just over a week before my termination date that I would be let go on April 23. I was shaken up that the writing on the wall became true, but I was more shaken up that I would have no health insurance coverage because… what if I got hit by a bus and didn’t die?! THAT COSTS A LOT OF MONEY!
I scoured my options online and with the HR department of the company who terminated me but I learned three things: You can only sign up for individual insurance on or before the 15th of the current month to be eligible for the following month, resulting in me having no way of being covered for the following month; my company’s insurance plan is offered in a different state than where I live (Connecticut), so as an individual living where I live I was not eligible for my former employer’s insurance in any way; I make too much money from unemployment to qualify for state assisted insurance. Car-azy.
I was pretty depressed by this, but I was trying to figure out my options for insurance. Through help from Finn I learned that my options available to me were available from an online insurance comparison company so I went through the process of finding a plan that works for me and filling out the online form. I filled it out on the 7th of May. What I didn’t realize was that I would need to be mailed papers, allllllll the way from California, and they wouldn’t arrive to me until May 14. A Friday. In the afternoon. And there would be no way for me to get my paperwork back to California to a human being in time for June coverage. So… no May coverage, no June coverage. GREAT!
Bus? Bus! Anyone seen that bus that wants to cream me but not kill me?
In addition to this lovely fact, my credit card company decided that my purchases were suspicious so they cancelled my card and issued me a new one, but the insurance company had my old card on file and written into the policy they’d sent me. Another strike against me getting this insurance in a timely manner.
Since I wasn’t going to get the insurance for June and I had to take care of activating the new credit card (that took a few days and a few phone calls promising that I was me and that I was calling form my home and that I had authorized the strange-to-them purchases on my card) I held onto the paperwork and didn’t mail it back.
And then all the stuff with the cats happened and I kinda forgot about myself and worried about my girls. You know all that happened, everything’s pretty good on this side of things, and today was the first day that I put the focus back on myself: I had to go get a prescription today, but without insurance. I didn’t feel like spending $4.50 and going all the way into Manhattan so I figured out how to transfer my prescription back to my local pharmacy. They called to ask me to bring a new insurance card because my current one was declined, so I explained I was working on getting new insurance and that I’d pay cash when I picked up the prescription.
I put my pants on and drove over to the pharmacy. I told the pharmacist my name. She had trouble finding my script so I explained I had been called and told it was ready. She went over to a counter near where she had been filling scripts and looked through the entire pile. She then found my bag and said “you’re the one with no insurance?” Because it’s important for everyone around me to know that I’m uninsured. I said yes and nervously laughed, which I wish I hadn’t because I was annoyed she was putting my business out into the world. And then instead of coming over to give me my script she started filing all the other prescriptions alphabetically by last names into the bins… For, like, several minutes. Because this loser chick doesn’t have insurance so she deserves to be treated like she’s unimportant. I wasn’t that annoyed by this, but… I was definitely more sensitive about the way I was being treated because I was paying full fee for (thankfully a generic) prescription but I was still left feeling like I was inadequate for not having a plastic membership card.
And then I came home, opened my mailbox and found an envelope from my old employer. I thought, “hmmm, what is this thick packet of info and … what good can possibly come of this?” I got upstairs, put all my stuff down, took my pants back off, and opened the letter. To my really pleasant surprise, it was a letter from the HR group letting me know that COBRA benefits were being reinstated retroactively to May 31, 2010. The cost of the benefits? $450 for medical and dental.
BUT, here comes the good part: I was involuntarily terminated so was eligible for benefits at 35% of the original cost, about half of what I would have been paying for lesser insurance if I had submitted my paperwork for the plan I found online.
I read through all the paperwork and called the HR group to verify that I was eligible for the reduced payment, made a check out, put a stamp and the HR to: address and my from: address label on an envelope, put the black ink into my printer, scanned the pages and the envelope and check for my records, then put my pants back on and walked to my local post office to drop my letter into the mailbox that gets picked up at 5pm.
You are now looking at an again medically and dentally insured Popstar as of sometime early next week when the HR group in CT opens my letter from Queens. And now that bus can stay far, far away.