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Insurance - Head Matters


4. Health Insurance

d. If my employer does not offer health insurance, can I buy an individual policy?

Yes.  And, if you are unemployed, self-employed, or decide to return to school you may want to buy an individual health insurance policy.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Ask your insurance company if you can convert its group policy to an individual policy. You will pay a higher rate than you did before and your benefits may be limited, but the terms will still probably be better than if you buy your own policy.
  • Under a federal law (called “COBRA”), if your former employer had at least 20 workers, you have the right to stay in the health plan you had at that job. However, you must pay the total premium yourself, which can be very expensive. And you must act quickly—you generally only have 60 days from the time you lose your job to sign up for COBRA. COBRA usually guarantees 18 months of coverage.
  • If you are married, see if your spouse’s employer will add you to its group plan.  Many plans will add you even if it’s not an open enrollment period (the company’s specific time period when employees can sign up for or change their benefits) if there is a loss of coverage. 
  • Try to join a group health plan through a trade association or alumni group or professional association offering reasonable rates. You can also find a group plan designed specifically for self-employed workers. If you are over age 50, you can join the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which offers an extensive plan. Even some credit card companies offer health insurance coverage.
  • It is possible also to buy an individual policy. The rates may be high and coverage limited, but it is important that you be protected against financial catastrophe if you, or your family, are hit with a major illness or injury. If you are self-employed, most of the health insurance premium will be tax-deductible.
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