So a little explanation here-I was between jobs. As in the case of most Americans, I had my health insurance coverage through my employer. Each time you leave a job, you are among the uninsured until starting your new job.
Explore This IssueApril 2006
This is not as bad as it sounds. Whenever you leave a job, you can elect to continue your medical insurance coverage under COBRA regulations. The individual, not the employer, pays the price for health insurance under the COBRA laws. However, the laws state that you have a two month period from the time you leave your former employer to decide whether you want to elect to have insurance coverage through COBRA. If you elect to insure under COBRA at the end of the two months, you are covered retroactively and you pay for the premium due since you left your job. The first premium under COBRA laws is due 45 days after election of coverage. So, after leaving a job you can obtain insurance coverage and not owe any premium until three and a half months later. In other words, in the four times above when I was between jobs, I could have insured under COBRA. The reason I didn’t obtain coverage: I didn’t need to. There were no pressing health concerns during those time periods. If there was a need for health insurance during those times, I could have obtained retroactive coverage-all the way up to three and a half months after leaving a job.
How the 40 Million Breaks Down
Most of the 45% of the 40 million Americans who are without health insurance for less than four months during the year are between jobs and are temporarily without insurance until their new job begins. Like my personal situations described above, these people are covered or could be covered by health insurance retroactively through COBRA for up to three and a half months after leaving their job before a premium is due. So nearly half of the uninsured for all practical purposes are insured. There is no burning imperative for most of these Americans to obtain health insurance.
Well, what about the other 20 million or so Americans who go without health insurance for more than four months? The vast majority of this group can be separated into four categories: Medicaid undercount, Medicaid eligible, illegal aliens, and non-believers.