Thursday, December 24, 2009

Post-employment, shopping for health insurance

My company-subsidized medical coverage ended when my severance benefits stopped: October 2008. I then went on COBRA, the coverage mandated by the federal government; it generally lasts for 18 months.

But now my COBRA coverage effectively is ending, because my former employer -- Gannett Co. -- has canceled its contract with my preferred HMO here in San Francisco, effective Jan. 1. That means I'm now shopping for health insurance in the so-called individual market, without the benefit or guarantee of group rates, because I'm self-employed, so without access to an employer's plan.

My experience looking for a new medical plan may offer lessons to anyone who's considering leaving News Corp. -- either voluntarily, or through a layoff.

Here's a look at the costs:
  • I paid $150 a month during my final year as a USA Today employee, for full-service coverage, with a relatively low deductible. That was for just one person: me.
  • On COBRA, my premium shot up to nearly $400 a month for the same benefits.
With my COBRA ending, I want to continue coverage through my current HMO, Kaiser Permanente, because I like my doctor and the other services there. So, I've narrowed my search for a new plan to two possibilities offered by Kaiser:
  • a "conversion plan," offering essentially the same benefits I got through Gannett. It costs $621 a month, with a $1,500 annual deductible. Mind you, that's still for just me alone. Under this plan, there's no medical review, so I wouldn't be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
  • a high-deductible plan that costs much less: $277 a month, with a $3,000 annual deductible. But unlike the conversion plan, pre-existing conditions could make me ineligible.
I'll let you know how it all shakes out.

Questions for you: What's your experience been with coverage at News Corp.? And if you've left the company, what was it like to get health insurance if you, like me, shopped on the individual market?

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.

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