Category: Business Solutions

Life Insurance Over 50

For individuals who are young and in good health, shopping for life insurance is often easy and stress-free. Most of the time, young people only need to decide how much coverage they want and apply for a free quote online. Some companies that market term life insurance coverage even let qualified applicants start their policies […]

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Guide to Managing Medical Benefits When You Leave or Start a Job

Leaving a job typically means saying goodbye to workplace benefits such as health insurance and medical spending accounts. No matter if you quit, get fired, or get furloughed, it's essential to know your options so you can make the most of those perks.

If you're starting a new job with benefits or becoming self-employed, you'll have critical decisions to make about what's best for you and your family. I recently received a couple of questions about how to handle benefits during work transitions, and I'll answer them throughout this post. We'll review the best options for managing medical benefits when you leave or start a new job.

What happens to health insurance when you leave a job?

When it's time to leave a job with benefits, it's essential to let your employer know so you can evaluate your options for managing or replacing them right away. The sooner you understand your choices, the more time you'll have to do your homework and consider what's best. 

Any insurance perks you have typically end on the last day of the month you get terminated. So, be strategic about choosing your last day, when possible.

If you leave an employer on good terms or get a severance package, ask for an extra month or two of medical coverage if you need it.

For instance, if you work through November 30, your health insurance may end on that day. But if you work through December 1, your insurance may last until December 31. Also, remember that most things in business are negotiable. If you leave an employer on good terms or get a severance package, ask for an extra month or two of medical coverage if you need it.

Here are four work transitions you may need to manage:

1. You leave a job for a new employer with benefits

Congrats! Benefits at your new job may start on your first day, or you may be subject to a waiting period, such as 30 or 90 days. Don't roll the dice with a gap in critical coverages such as health and life insurance. Something unexpected—a car accident, illness, or death—could be financially devastating for you or your surviving family.

If you have a spouse or partner who also has workplace insurance benefits, you may be wondering which plan to choose or whether you can double up on benefits. Keep reading for tips to handle this situation wisely. 

2. You leave a job for a new employer with no benefits

If your new job is with a small company, it may not offer expensive perks such as health insurance. But that doesn't mean you can't get affordable coverage on your own, which we'll cover in a moment.

3. You leave a job and become unemployed

No matter if your workplace doesn't offer benefits or you're unemployed, there are ways to get low- or no-cost health insurance.

4. You leave a job and become self-employed

When you work for yourself, you need to provide your own medical benefits package, and the same advice will apply, so keep reading.

What is COBRA continuation coverage?

A critical right you should be familiar with is COBRA continuation coverage. COBRA, which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a law that requires an insurer to continue your employer-sponsored medical insurance, including health, dental, and vision policies after you're no longer employed.

Anytime you leave a job with group health benefits, you can purchase COBRA coverage for a period. Your benefits administrator should give you information about your right to apply for COBRA coverage and the cost.

Anytime you leave a job with group health benefits, you can purchase COBRA coverage for a period.

You can purchase the same or fewer medical benefits than you had before you quit, got laid-off, or fired from your job. But the price won't be the same—COBRA coverage can be expensive because your previous employer does not subsidize it.

You must pay the full COBRA premiums, plus a 2% administrative charge, to the insurer. While it will cost more than you're used to, the upside is that your coverage will be seamless, and you'll be familiar with it.

COBRA protects everyone affected by the loss of group health insurance, including the former employee, his or her spouse, former spouses, and dependent children—when certain qualifying events occur, such as termination or reduction of work hours. It typically lasts for up to 18 months. However, if you're a surviving spouse or divorced from a covered employee, COBRA may continue for up to 36 months.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that you'll just wait and get health insurance when you get a new job or when you become eligible after a new employer's waiting period. If you get sick or need a trip to the emergency room, you could end up with a massive bill.

If you're not eligible for regular, federal COBRA, many states offer similar programs called Mini COBRA. To learn more, check with your state's department of insurance.

How do you get individual health insurance?

If you don't have the option to get COBRA medical benefits or can't afford it, your next best option is to shop for ACA-qualified health insurance. ACA stands for the Affordable Care Act, which set standards, known as essential health benefits, and provides subsidies that make qualified plans more affordable.

If you qualify for an ACA subsidy based on your income and family size, it can make a health plan much less expensive than COBRA continuation.

If you qualify for an ACA subsidy based on your income and family size, it can make a health plan much less expensive than COBRA continuation. But if you have high income and don't qualify for reduced premiums, COBRA may cost about the same or even give you better benefits.

So, shop and compare the cost of COBRA to a private policy when possible. Open enrollment for ACA-qualified health plans is limited to the last few weeks of the year. However, losing your group coverage at work is one of several life events that qualify you for a special enrollment period or SEP to get coverage. But you only have 60 days to sign up for an ACA plan after losing your insurance at work, so don't put it off.

If you miss the special enrollment deadline, you generally won't be able to get a marketplace plan unless you have another qualifying life event. These include getting married, having a child, or exhausting your maximum period of COBRA coverage.

You can get quotes for an ACA-qualified health plan from the following:

  • Healthcare.gov (the federal healthcare marketplace)
  • Your state's online healthcare marketplace (if you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington)
  • Insurance aggregator sites, such as Bankrate.com and eHealth.com
  • Insurance brokers

Depending on your income, family size, and the state where you live, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage from Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Also, note that if you're younger than 26, you can enroll in a parent's health plan even if you don't live at home or are married.

Can you have more than one health insurance plan?

Jamie left a voicemail and asks:

I'm starting a new job soon and am wondering if I should enroll in the dental and vision benefits because I already have them under my husband's insurance. How should I compare insurance policies if I need to choose between different plans?

It's not against the law to have more than one medical insurance policy, but it may be a waste of money. Having more than one medical plan doesn't mean that you get reimbursed twice for covered benefits.

Having more than one medical plan doesn't mean that you get reimbursed twice for covered benefits.

The plan you get through your employer becomes primary, and the one through a spouse or partner's employer is secondary. After the primary policy covers you, the secondary would pick up any remaining covered cost. But the combined coverage can't exceed 100% of the cost.

When you have dual health or dental plans, you must pay deductibles for both of them. In other words, you may still have out-of-pocket costs even when you have more than one plan.

Whether you could save money by enrolling in more than one medical insurance plan depends on several factors, such as the monthly premium, annual deductible, and how high your healthcare expenses could be in the future.

You'll need to make these same comparisons when you're choosing between different plans. Evaluate monthly premiums, annual deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance, and the doctor networks to estimate which one is best for your situation. 

To get some help, speak to an insurance representative from each plan you're considering. Ask them about the types of healthcare services you and your family typically need or have needed in the past. You can't predict how healthy you'll be going forward. But to evaluate different plans, or know if having more than one plan is worthwhile, you must consider your previous expenses for health, dental, and vision care. So gathering that information should be part of your research.

What happens to an HSA when you leave a job?

Adam asks, "My employer makes contributions to my HSA every payday. Do I have to repay them if I leave my job to start my own business?"

Another insurance-related benefit that you may have at work is a tax-advantaged health savings account or HSA. You're eligible for an HSA when you're enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Having an HDHP may be a good option when you want lower premiums, are in relatively good health, and are likely to take advantage of an HSA.

An HSA is portable, so you can take it with you if you leave an employer.

The good news is that an HSA is portable, so you can take it with you if you leave an employer. Your account balance, including amounts contributed by your old employer, are yours to spend tax-free on eligible medical expenses with no spending deadline.

You can spend an HSA on qualified expenses for you or your family members, even if you don't have a high-deductible plan or you're uninsured. However, you can't make any new HSA contributions when you're not covered by HDHP. 

If you become unemployed, you can use an HSA for COBRA premiums, or for other health insurance while you're receiving unemployment compensation. But if you spend HSA money on non-qualified medical expenses, the amounts will be taxed as income, plus you must pay an additional 20% penalty.

What happens to an FSA when you leave a job?

Another medical spending account you may need to manage when you leave a job is an FSA or flexible spending arrangement. These accounts can only be offered by employers and get funded by pre-tax payroll deductions that you can use for childcare and medical expenses.

Make sure you empty the account by spending the funds on qualified purchases before your last day of work or by the end of the month.

FSAs have a use-it-or-lose-it policy, which means the amounts you've contributed will be forfeited if you don't spend them before leaving a job. Make sure you empty the account by spending the funds on qualified purchases before your last day of work or by the end of the month.

Whether leaving a job is cause for tears or celebration, you can make smart decisions about your medical benefits and save money with some strategic planning. Be sure to ask your benefits administrator or your plan providers for help when you need it.

Looking for Auto Insurance? Here Are 6 Things You Need to Know

Let’s get one thing out there: no one is especially psyched to get car insurance. You get it because it’s a financial safeguard against damage to your car or injury to you or others (and maybe because it also happens to be legally required in some form nearly everywhere in the US). Car insurance is… Read More

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5 Best Places to Find Insurance for Freelancers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 million workers are self-employed in the country. Being a self-employed worker can be liberating, but it also means you’re your own HR department, too. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding affordable insurance options. With a traditional employer, you had a limited array of […]

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7 Big Insurance Mistakes to Avoid During the COVID Crisis

The coronavirus has upset lives and livelihoods all over the globe. While insurance can’t keep you from getting COVIID-19, having the right types of insurance can reduce your financial risk as the virus spreads.

There’s never been a better time to protect your health, life, property, and business with the right insurance. Let's take a look at seven insurance mistakes you might be making during the pandemic. You’ll learn how to face new risks and challenges with the help of different types of affordable insurance.

Coronavirus insurance mistakes

Here’s the detail on each mistake you should avoid to make sure you and your family stay safe during the pandemic.

1. Skipping health insurance

The coronavirus has changed the health insurance landscape in drastic ways. If you’ve become unemployed or have your work hours cut and lost employer-sponsored health insurance, don’t go without coverage when you may need it most.

Here are several ways to get health insurance:

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) may be options for free or low-cost coverage if you can’t afford health insurance. These programs allow you to get coverage at any time of year, depending on your income, family size, and where you live. You can learn more at the Medicaid website at Medicaid.gov.

Your parent’s health plan may be an option if they have coverage, you’re under age 26, and they’re willing to insure you. Even if you’re married, not living with a parent, and not financially dependent on them, they can cover you until your 26th birthday.

COBRA coverage is typically available when you leave a job with group health insurance. Whether you quit, are laid-off, or get fired, COBRA is a federal regulation that gives you the option to continue your employer-sponsored health, dental, and vision insurance for a certain period, such as 18 months. However, if you have funds in a health savings account or HSA, you can use them to pay your COBRA premiums.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage is available through federal or state health online marketplaces, insurance brokers, and insurance websites. If your income is below certain limits based on your family size, you qualify for a federal subsidy, which reduces your healthcare premiums. No matter where you live, you can begin shopping at the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.

2. Not using telehealth services

If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), it typically only covers certain preventive care costs, such as an annual physical or vaccinations, before you meet the yearly deductible.

The CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must cover it cost-free before your HDHP deductible is satisfied.

However, the CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must also cover it cost-free before your deductible is satisfied. For other types of health plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, they must also waive any cost-sharing or co-pays for remote health services.

The telehealth relief is only temporary for 2020 and 2021. However, it can give you significant savings if you have a non-emergency or medical question that you want to address with a doctor online.

3. Only getting minimum car insurance coverage

During tough financial times, it can be tempting to cut your auto insurance coverage or drive uninsured. Remember that it’s against the law to drive without having the minimum liability coverage for your home state.

Since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage.

However, since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage. This insurance protects you from a driver who hits-and-runs or is uninsured or underinsured for the damage they cause you, your passengers, and your car.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 13 percent of drivers are uninsured nationwide. My home state, Florida, has the highest number—almost 27 percent! This data from 2015 is the most recent. Due to coronavirus-related financial hardships, I’d bet those numbers are much higher now.

If you drop any auto insurance coverage, make it collision or comprehensive, which repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged or stolen (after paying your deductible). Reducing or eliminating these coverages could make sense if your car isn’t worth much, such as less than $1,000. A good rule of thumb is to drop these coverages if their annual cost is 10% or more of your car’s cash value.

Another way to save on auto insurance is to increase your deductibles or bundle it with other coverage, such as your home or renters policy.

4. Not purchasing a non-owners auto insurance policy

If you’ve sold your car or you tend to borrow or rent cars when needed, don’t forget that you still need the protection of a non-owner auto insurance policy. This coverage gives you liability protection when you drive a car you don’t own or are a passenger in someone else’s car.

Here are some situations when you need non-owner car insurance:

  • You rent a car and don’t already have insurance on a vehicle you own.
  • You use ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft.
  • You borrow cars from family, friends, or neighbors for short or long trips.

5. Overlooking a renters insurance policy

According to the III, a surprisingly low number of renters, 35 percent have renters insurance. Whether you mistakenly believe that your landlord is responsible for your personal belongings (they’re not) or that you don’t have enough to insure (you probably do), you should have a policy.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Standard renters insurance offers a lot more protection than many people think. It covers your possessions if they’re stolen or damaged from a covered event, such as a water leak, fire, or natural disaster. A renters policy also pays living expenses if you have to move out while repairs get made after an insured disaster, such as a tornado or fire.

Even more important is the liability protection I mentioned. If you get involved in a lawsuit related to property damage or medical injuries, you’ll be covered up to your policy limit.

Renters insurance gives you a lot of protection for the money. It’s probably more affordable than you might think, costing only an average of $188 per year across the nation. Bundling it with your auto insurance could even reduce the cost.

6. Working from home without commercial coverage

Due to stay-at-home mandates during the pandemic, most people who can work from home are doing so. If you’re self-employed as a solopreneur or operate a small business from home, be aware that your home or renters insurance excludes most home-based business activities.

For instance, if you keep inventory at home or have special business equipment, they aren’t covered under a standard homeowner or renter policy. Make sure your business assets and liability are protected by having a separate commercial policy or adding a home-business rider or endorsement to your existing insurance.

The type of business coverage you need varies depending on your industry, whether you drive for business purposes, if you see clients at your home, the value of your business assets, and how much potential risk you have. But it could cost as little as $150 per year. Check with your existing insurance company or a trade association for your industry about getting coverage.

RELATED: How to Qualify for the Coronavirus Economic Relief Package

7. Thinking you can’t get life insurance

It’s not fun to think about death or what would happen to your family if you weren’t alive. If your surviving spouse, partner, children, parents, other dependents, or business partners would be hurt financially after your death, you need life insurance to protect them.

Think about how your survivors would care for your children and meet financial obligations without additional income. Consider how your children would survive if you and your spouse or partner died at the same time. If you’re procrastinating getting life insurance or increasing your current coverage, think about the legacy you want to leave.

The good news is that term life insurance is affordable and still readily available during the pandemic. For example, a $500,000 payout for your family could cost about $200 a year if you’re middle-aged and reasonably good health. Bankrate.com is a good site to learn more and get free life insurance quotes.

Skipping Renters Insurance? Why That’s a Bigger Risk Than You’d Think

As a finance writer, I am surrounded by people who know a lot about managing money. But even those with the most money know-how can still miss financial must-haves. For instance, in a recent conversation, a few of my coworkers stated they didn’t have renters insurance. This puts them among the 59% of renters who… Read More

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What Is an Insurance Deductible?

When you have an insurance policy, you may have to foot the bill for some of your medical expenses before your insurance company starts chipping in. This initial amount is your insurance deductible. The size of deductibles can vary depending … Continue reading →

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