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Understanding COBRA 
 
by Christopher Welsh May 25, 2005

Is COBRA for you?

As great a benefit as it is (it’s always nice to have options…) COBRA isn’t for everyone. The level of your sticker shock depends on a number of things, such as how much of the benefit was your employer paying for (in my case, most of it), how good (expensive) your insurance is (mine was very good and, consequently, very expensive), and how much you will be able to afford when you find yourself suddenly out of work. COBRA is a great resource; but to determine if it’s for you, consider the following:

  • Are you under a doctor’s care for serious and/or long-term problems?
  • Do you anticipate difficulty in qualifying for individual life insurance or have no option to take insurance through a spouse or a state-sponsored program?
  • Is the COBRA price affordable for you, at least long enough for you to get something less expensive?
  • Do you need to provide for a gap in time while waiting to qualify for a plan that serves you better?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then COBRA may be for you. Before you sign up right away, read on about timing and making your first payment; you have 60 days from the date your coverage ended to sign up for COBRA. Once you sign up, your first payment is not due for 45 days from that date. So, in theory, you could continue your coverage without having to pay for it for up to 105 days; just be prepared for a huge bill, as the coverage will be retroactive to the date your old coverage ended.

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