COBRA Q&A OPTIONS
Q. I am a 64-year-old male who is currently covered on my wife's health insurance plan. She is retiring at the end of June, and I will need to find health insurance until I turn 65 on March 17. I've checked a couple of insurers locally and the monthly rates they quoted $705 and $1,045 are enough to take your breath away. Are you aware of any other options I can pursue?
A. COBRA is probably your best bet. COBRA is the federally mandated temporary continuation health insurance coverage. When your wife retires, you should be eligible to buy COBRA coverage from her former employer. That will allow you to stay on that employer's group plan. The employer will not contribute toward the cost of this coverage, but you will get insurance at a group rate instead of a much more costly individual rate. Your monthly COBRA premiums might be about half the cost of those quotes you got when you called around to insurance companies. "COBRA is going to give him the best coverage at a premium he can afford," said Andy Marshall, president of Falcone Associates, a Syracuse employee benefits firm. There are a few state insurance programs, but your income has to be low to qualify. Ask your wife's employer about COBRA.
A new bill that would make permanent "Timothy's Law," which requires insurers issuing group or school blanket health insurance policies in New York to provide a minimum of 30 inpatient days and 20 outpatient days for the treatment of mental health conditions. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2007, is set to expire at the end of this year.
Timothy's Law also requires large group health plans with more than 50 members to provide mental health coverage at the same level provided for other health conditions.
New York Governor "Paterson" introduced the legislation after receiving a report from the state Insurance Department that the law has been successful. That report found the law increased monthly costs by one half of 1 percent.
The law is named after Timothy O'Clair of Schenectady County, who committed suicide in 2001 at age 12 after struggling with mental illness. His parents had to give up custody of the boy to the state so he could get care because their insurance would not cover all the treatment.
Women are more likely than men to feel the pinch of rising health costs and eroding health benefits, with about half of working-age women reporting problems accessing needed care because of costs, compared to 39 percent of men, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund
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