> Maintaining Health Insurance Coverage During a Job Change or Job Loss
Several laws protect you from losing health insurance coverage if you lose your job, change jobs or need to take time off during your breast cancer treatment:
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) protects people who are covered by a group health insurance plan at an employer with 20 or more employees.
- You must be offered continuous coverage for up to 18 months after leaving your job.
- You must request this coverage within 60 days of leaving the job, and in turn, your employer has to give you written notice of your COBRA rights within 14 days of leaving the job.
- You pay the entire premium on the insurance. While that premium can be large, it is less than the cost of buying an individual policy (group rates are usually lower than individual rates).
If you are not covered by COBRA (for example, if you work for a company with fewer than 20 employees), you may be able to switch your group coverage to an individual policy. Although your premiums will likely increase, it may be worthwhile if you do not have to pass a medical exam to be insured. This may be a good short-term solution while other options are explored.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 states that a pre-existing condition must be covered without delay if you join a new group plan, as long as you have had continuous insurance for the past 12 months. This means that if you are insured for at least 12 months, you can go from one job to another without any interruption of your coverage.
If you have not been covered for at least 12 months, HIPAA states that the new insurance plan must cover the costs related to your breast cancer within one year of joining the plan.
Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 helps protect people from losing their jobs when they need to take time off for certain family and medical reasons. This law allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period of time, without losing your job. If you have a company group health plan, your employer must continue your health insurance coverage during the unpaid leave. If you are unable to work due to your treatment or the cancer itself, you are eligible. Any immediate family members (defined as a spouse, child or parent) who are caregivers are also eligible.
Having this job security allows you to take more time off once paid vacation or sick days are used up. This law covers most people who have been working for their employer for at least 12 months.