In mid-April, I received a call from a 62-year-old woman named Alice who had been laid off from her job quite a while back. She was paying around $650 each month to maintain her COBRA coverage. Turns out she got my number from her brother, Carl, whom I had helped enroll into a Marketplace plan. He, too, was paying a lot of money each month for COBRA coverage after his employer had cut his hours in half, making him ineligible for employer-offered coverage. By enrolling into a subsidized Marketplace plan, Carl saved more than $400 a month in premium costs. He hoped I could also help his sister. Unfortunately, she called me just a few weeks after open enrollment had ended.
Normally, this would mean that she would have to wait until the next open enrollment period or until she exhausted her COBRA coverage before she could qualify for a Special Enrollment Period which would allow her to enroll into a much more affordable Marketplace plan. It seemed she had missed this window of opportunity – that is until HHS announced new Special Enrollment Periods for folks currently enrolled into COBRA coverage.
As I mentioned, normally a consumer has four options regarding COBRA coverage:
- Decline an initial offer of COBRA coverage
- Get a Special Enrollment Period and enroll in marketplace coverage
- Switch from COBRA coverage to marketplace coverage during open enrollment
- Wait until the exhaustion of COBRA coverage to get an Special Enrollment Period
Well, HHS recognized that folks just like Alice were confused about their options. So they decided to offer COBRA enrollees a Special Enrollment Period. If you or someone you know is on COBRA, he or she can qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to shop for a plan on the Marketplace until July 1 of this year.
Simply call the Marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596 and tell them you are currently on COBRA and that you would like to explore your options in the Marketplace. Then fill out an application at healthcare.gov to see if you’re eligible for financial help. This could very well save you hundreds of dollars each month in premium costs. You have nothing to lose. I’ve already called Alice.
Campaign for Better Health Care
For more info on qualifying events: