COBRA. Medical. Dental. Home. Automobile. Life. Long Term Disability.
While insurance matters are important for all workers, they are critical for mid-career workers who have been fired or laid off. All let go workers must address insurance maters as soon as practicable. Life goes on after you lose your job, and so do the risks that you face every day. Adverse events never get laid off or take a vacation. Many workers think insurance matters are boring but when it comes to reducing risk, which is what insurance does, boring matters become important. In today’s world insurance has become a necessity along with food, shelter and clothing.
We live in a risky world. On any given day one could contract a life threatening disease like cancer, suffer a long-term debilitating and costly illness like Lyme’s Disease, or have a car accident resulting in serious personal injury and substantial property damage. Your living space, your house or apartment, is at risk, too. A hidden electrical malfunction could burn your dwelling to the ground and destroy all of your personal possessions in the process. Risk is omnipresent and insurance is the best way to hedge against it.
Every person, regardless of social status or employment status, needs the protection that insurance offers. The most important types of insurance are: medical, dental, life, long term disability, automobile and homeowners. Health problems rank at the top of our risk ladder, and every let go worker must hedge against them. We’ll examine each type of insurance beginning with the medical insurance option known as COBRA.
THE CONSOLIDATED OMNIBUS BUDGET RECONCILIATION ACT. COBRA
COBRA is a federal government program that enables workers to continue their medical insurance coverage after being let go. However, there are strict rules governing its implementation. For example, workers who are fired for gross misconduct are not eligible. Also, companies that employ fewer than twenty workers cannot participate in the plan.
While COBRA is a helpful risk-lowering federal government medical insurance plan, you must pay the entire cost of the plan plus an administrative fee when you are laid off. If your company group medical insurance premium was $5,000 and split between you and your employer, now you are responsible for paying the entire premium plus the 2 percent administrative fee. Generally, you must apply for COBRA benefits within sixty days after being separated. Benefits last for 18 months and will cover you, your spouse and children. However, as with all government programs, the rules and regulations are constantly changing so act immediately if you elect to choose COBRA benefits. For current rules and regulations regarding COBA, speak with your former employer’s human resources director and review the Department of Labor website, www.dol.gov.
Caution! Do not assume that you will find another job with medical insurance benefits and pass up the chance to use COBRA. Your period of unemployment could go on for six months or more and you cannot be without medical insurance for that long a period.
THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (OBAMACARE)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides an array of choices for individuals seeking medical insurance. Your options are contingent upon your income and state of residence. This controversial government program is highly political and subject to modification at any time.
Cost is critical when assessing what to do about medical insurance after leaving the company. Learn what a medical insurance policy offered through the ACA insurance exchanges would cost and compare it with the cost of the insurance policy offered by COBRA. For information and updates on the Affordable Care Act in your State go to this website: www.healthcare.gov.
I speak from personal experience on this matter. One fine day I was talking an early morning bike ride when I unexpectedly hit a patch of damp road. Down I went striking my face on the pavement. The result? Two front teeth were cracked beyond repair and had to be replaced with dental implants. The cost? $5,000….and I had no dental insurance.
Dental problems can arise without notice on any given day. We are always at risk for infections that require costly root canals, and for teeth damaged by accidents. For a realistic account of what can happen unexpectedly, talk with your dentist.
If you had dental coverage in your last job, by all means try to extend coverage while you are out of work. If you did not have it, go online and look for reasonably priced dental insurance. Most dental plans are limited to group coverage through an employer, but there are a handful of dental insurance companies offering individual plans. Delta Dental is one of them. It offers individual plans and is noted for its generous coverage at modest cost. Check it out at www.deltadental.com. Another reputable insurer offering individual dental insurance is MetLife, a multiline insurer that has been in business since 1868. Their website is www.metlife.com.
When out of work, many workers try to minimize expenses by cutting insurance coverage on their homes or apartments. They say, “It will never happen to me. I’ll cut my coverage while unemployed and pick it up after I get another job.” Don’t buy into that narrative. Homeowners carrying a mortgage do not have a choice because the mortgager requires coverage and in most cases it is factored into the monthly mortgage payment. However, if you own property outright or live in an apartment, coverage is optional. Do not eliminate this coverage. On any given day your residence could burn to the ground and take all of your belongings with it. On another given day, someone could trip over a rug in your apartment, fall, and incur serious personal injury. You will be responsible for payment of all medical expenses and possibly be sued for negligence. Homeowners insurance may seem to be an option when you are out of work but it is not. It is a necessity in today’s world.
Automobile insurance is required if your car is financed and the premium is usually built into your monthly payment. In all States, proof of financial responsibility, i.e. automobile insurance, is required. You must present proof of coverage when you apply for or renew your license plates every year. Do not even think about skirting the rules and discontinuing premium payments after you receive your state license believing that you will never get into an accident if you drive extra carefully. Once again, risk is with you 24/7. Automobile insurance is a necessity.
Many workers try to reduce their premiums by signing on for the minimum required coverage but this is a grave mistake. Your personal injury liability coverage should be nothing less than one million dollars per accident, and property damage should be five hundred thousand dollars for each accident. In addition, coverage should include medical payments which will pay for medical bills for all passengers riding in your car who might be injured in a collision. For an extra ounce of protection, include uninsured motorist coverage because there are drivers on the road with no coverage whatsoever. Listen to the advice of your auto insurance agent and proceed accordingly.
“Why life insurance?” you might ask. “I’m in the prime of my life and I’m not going to die in the foreseeable future.” Think again. Your life could end at any time during the day or night, regardless of your age, leaving your dependents or extended family with expenses that could reach beyond their means. Burial expenses come to mind. Today, the average cost of your funeral, including the cemetery grave plot and head stone, is $13,000, sometimes more depending on location. Add some upgrades like a fancy coffin and elaborate headstone and the cost of your good- bye will run over $15,000. The following story illustrates how risky life is.
I recruited Sandra for a job as a Reading Consultant with an educational publisher where I was Regional Sales Manager for the Midwestern United States. Sandra excelled in her job and was sought after by school districts implementing their new Reading programs.
She belonged to a number of fine and preforming arts organizations in Chicago. She was an officer in the Junior League and performed volunteer work for the Art Institute. Her teen age daughter was the pride and joy of her life and attended only the best schools.
As Sandra entered mid-career, she and her husband frequently took skiing trips to Aspen and Vail in addition to vacations in Europe and the Caribbean. Life was good for Sandra. In February 2015, they went on a five day ski trip to Vail Colorado and returned home tired and happy. However, Sandra seemed more tired than usual after five days on the slopes and scheduled an appointment with her doctor to see is she needed a dose of vitamins to keep up her energy level. As a precaution, her doctor ordered lab tests and an abdominal CT scan. He called them, “routine.” However, the “routine” tests indicated that Sandra had pancreatic cancer. Surgery followed and so did death, seven weeks after diagnosis. Sandra possessed intelligence, energy and passion beyond the ordinary, but death does not play favorites. To this day, she is missed by her family, husband, daughter, friends and former coworkers. They still ask, “How could she have died in the prime of her life…without forewarning?” Rest in peace, Sandra.
There are several types of life insurance. The most common, and the lowest in price, is called “term life insurance,” which is what most employers provide for their employees. It terminates as soon as you are fired or laid off. When you walk out the door after being let go, you are no longer insured. Purchasing term life insurance should be a priority for all let go workers. It is readily available from any number of life insurance companies at reasonable cost. Conduct an online search for low cost term life insurance and purchase it immediately. Dying is not cheap. Death never takes a vacation. Plan accordingly. Buy life insurance….now.
LONG TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE (LTD)
The story goes something like this. “I don’t need LTD insurance because a disabling accident will never happen to me.” Most of us delude ourselves into thinking that accidents resulting in long term or permanent disability always happen to the other guy. I fell into this trap in mid-career, too, and but for the guidance of an extraordinary insurance saleswoman I would not have survived financially. Here’s my story.
It was a beautiful early autumn morning and I was riding my bike through a rural area in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The area was dotted with small farms, some of which raised chickens. While riding past a farmhouse with chicken coops nearly reaching the road, a chicken darted from weeds growing along the shoulder of the road and ran into the front wheel of my bike. I had no time to outmaneuver this fast moving beast and down I went. I suffered a fractured pelvis, a torn rotator cuff, a concussion (despite wearing a helmet), and multiple lacerations, contusions and abrasions. I was disabled for six months following fourteen days in the hospital, surgery, and intensive physical therapy. During that time, I had no income or disability payments from my employer. The expenses, however, continued as usual. I was responsible for home mortgage payments, car payments, insurance payments, food, clothing, medicine, college tuition bills for three children and so on.
I would have defaulted on the mortgage, car loan and tuition payments but for a long-term disability insurance policy that I had purchased from Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co. and which had become effective only three days before the accident. That policy covered almost one hundred percent of my expenses during my disability. Without it, I could not have survived financially. Here’s the rest of the story.
Joanne, my insurance agent who sold me life insurance and homeowners insurance, had been after me for months to buy a long-term disability insurance policy because my employer did not provide one. I told her that I was in good health and that I did not participate in risky pursuits like mountain climbing or sky diving so my needing long-term disability insurance was minimal. “Wrong.” she said. “On any given day, you could be hit by a truck and become incapacitated for the rest of your life. Long-term disability is more important than life insurance for individuals with family responsibilities. Chances of incurring long term disability for a middle age person are much greater than dying.” I refused to listen to Joanne but she kept after me until in a moment of frustration I said, “Okay, Joanne. Get off my case! Write up the policy and don’t bug me anymore.” She did just that and three days later, I was hit, not by the proverbial truck, but by the chicken. Thanks, Joanne, for taking time to educate me about the risks we face every day.
Many insurers provide LTD coverage but most are for group plans through employers. Two reputable companies that provide individual LTD insurance are Northwestern Mutual, www.northwesternmutual.com and Unum, www.unum.com. Go online and check out their LTD options and prices.
Most people consider insurance a boring topic, one to be relegated to last place in the broad scheme of things. The unexpected illness or accident always happens to someone else. Don’t fool yourself. Consider the insurances detailed above as much a necessity as food, shelter and clothing. In today’s world you cannot live without it. Reduce your risk and implement these action items regarding insurance.
- Apply for COBRA medical insurance immediately after being separated from your employer.
- Consider an Affordable Care Act (ACA) policy or a private medical insurance policy as an alternative to COBRA.
- Purchase LTD, auto, homeowners and life insurance….now. All are equally important for mid-career workers. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, an automobile accident occurs every 60 seconds. And, reliable sources tell us that most accidents resulting in personal injury occur in or near your home.
PRINT AND DIGITAL RESOURCES
For detailed information on COBRA. www.COBRAinsurance.com
For information about the costs associated with your funeral. www.Parting.com
For information about funeral insurance. www.funeralwise.com/plan/costs
For information about disability insurance policies. www.insure.com/disability-insurance
For information and updates about the Affordable Care Act. www.healthcare.gov.
For more information about managing your personal finances after being fired or laid off, read my book, Moving Forward in Mid-Career, A Guide to Rebuilding Your Career after Being Fired or Laid Off, c2018, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. Enter this link for purchasing sources. http://skyhorsepublishing.com/titles/12831-9781510722019-moving-forward-in-mid-career.
John Henry Weiss
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