Employers decide how long you get to keep your group health plan after you leave your job.

You could lose health coverage on your last day. The employer may let a covered employee keep it through the weekend, the rest of the month or even longer — regardless of whether you get laid off or quit.

There’s no law that demands companies keep former employees covered for a specific period. It’s completely up to the employer.

You should contact your ex-employer’s benefits administrator to learn your last date of coverage.

After leaving a job, you may also be eligible for COBRA health insurance coverage. Under COBRA continuation coverage, you’re entitled to continue your former employer’s group plan for up to 18 months at your own expense. Beneficiaries may be able to keep COBRA coverage even longer depending on the circumstances.

Your ex-employer’s benefits administrator will contact the health insurer when you leave your job. You should receive a packet explaining how to enroll in COBRA insurance coverage. If you don’t want to wait for that to happen, contact the benefits administrator about it. You have 60 days after your last day of employer health coverage to decide whether to sign up for a COBRA health plan.

COBRA provides you with the same health coverage you had while employed. The only difference (and it’s major) is that you have to pay all the costs in a COBRA plan. Your employer no longer chips in money to help pay for a plan. The average employer-sponsored family plan costs an average of more than $20,000 annually. Employers pick up well more than half of those costs for employees. In a COBRA plan, however, the former employer pays all of those costs.

If you find COBRA coverage too costly, you can shop the health insurance marketplace. Losing your job-based health insurance coverage is a qualifying event that makes you eligible for a special enrollment period that generally lasts up to 60 days after the triggering event (like quitting your job).  The Affordable Care Act marketplace offers individual and family health plans that are similar to employer-sponsored health plans. One major difference is that you won’t have an employer helping you pay premiums, so ACA marketplace plans can be more expensive than a group health plan.

However, the ACA marketplace also provides subsidies to help offset some of those costs based on your household income. When applying for an ACA plan, the marketplace website will provide premium estimates for each plan that includes those subsidies.

Losing employer-based coverage can be stressful. Let Insure.com take you through the health insurance basics to help you maneuver through the health insurance landscape.

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