For those of you who started on COBRA in March 2009, your 15 months of the COBRA subsidy is about to expire. How will you find or pay for insurance from then on? You are entitled to 3 more months of COBRA in most states; in California, you're entitled to a total of 36 months (although that California law doesn't apply to self-funded plans, so most large employers). However, you have to pay the premium yourself, and if you're unemployed, that may be impossible. It now looks like unemployment will be extended to November 2010 instead of December (thank budget crunchers in Congress for making this a priority when people are suffering so). If you don't have pre-existing conditions, you may well be able to find affordable individual insurance. However, if you do have pre-existing conditions, your options will be limited.
If you have a pre-existing condition, the key will be exhausting your COBRA -- coming up with that additional 3 months of premium -- so you will be what's called HIPAA eligible. That means that there must be at least one "guaranteed issue" option for you. In states with high risk pools, that's typically the guaranteed issue option. In other states, you will have two options, and they may be fairly broad. To research the options available in your states, I like the National Association of Health Underwriters website -- just choose your state and look for the information for HIPAA eligibles. If you find that site difficult to navigate, try Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute's great website, which has more detailed analysis. If you can't figure it out, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll research it for you -- just remember to tell me what state you live in so I can research for you.
This is a tough one, folks. Pay attention; don't lose coverage of your pre-existing condition. It's very hard to get it back. Jennifer