I wrote this post originally for Brazen Careerist in July 2013.
If you’ve taken a new job recently, you might be on the losing end of a 90-day waiting period before your health care benefits take effect.
Did you know that that waiting period is a federally-mandated minimum? Ninety days is the maximum waiting period that companies can take before providing benefits to new employees. Not only does this move save your new company money (up to $410 per month); it also allows them to make sure you’re going to stick around before they fill out (and pay for) all of the paperwork.
Before you give in to a good, hard freak out over what you’re going to do for those three months, here are three steps that will help you get through it:
Know your rights
Affordable health insurance is important, whether you work for yourself or find yourself between jobs. Read up on the current legislation and hold your ground when you seek medical coverage. Some important (and interesting) updates to the Affordable Care Act include the following:
- You can’t lose coverage due to getting sick.
- You can’t lose coverage for making unintentional paperwork mistakes.
- Insurance companies must meet spending requirements for your premium. (Translation: they can’t deny you care and keep your premium dollars for their own bonuses and marketing purposes—80 cents of every dollar must be spent on you or refunded to you.)
Knowing where to go for answers can save you a lot of time and money in the long run, especially during a period of career transition.
Get in shape and brush your teeth
Sometimes health care in the US seems a lot more like sick care because you only see a doctor (or take a trip to the hospital or fill a prescription) when you’re sick. But you can reduce your medical needs by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and taking care of your teeth. A healthy person also sees a doctor much less often.
An added benefit of general health is a cheaper health insurance premium if you decide to get independent health care (if, for example, you ever decide to work for yourself).
Save for COBRA
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is health care coverage that takes effect when you leave a job but need to maintain coverage (unless your company covers fewer than 20 employees, in which case in many states it is called “State Continuation”).
Before you leave your job, set a savings goal to cover the monthly expenses you will accrue during the time of transition. Get an idea of your situation by reviewing your current pay stub and doing the math. If your company covers 80 percent of your premium, multiply the cost deducted from your paycheck by 1.8 to get a rough estimate of your monthly payment without their help. (If they cover 70 percent, multiply by 1.7, and so on.) Multiply that by three (for three months) to get your 90-day COBRA savings goal.