Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

COBRA Con

with one comment

Total Black: $67.13
Total Red: $230,258.15

A few days back I received a notice from my former law firm that COBRA payments for health insurance will be increasing.  Currently I pay $199.61 a month for medical and dental health insurance coverage through Aetna.  I didn’t opt in to the firm’s coverage until February 2009, once the Stimulus Package had been approved and passed, because it provided a significant subsidy for people who had been laid-off or were still unemployed.  Without that subsidy health care coverage would have been approximately $536.00 a month.  I doubted that I could afford it, especially when New York pays only $405.00 a week in unemployment benefits.  Now the subsidy has expired and I’m facing that question again.  The Stimulus Package funds only authorized nine months of subsidization.  Nine!  Congress decided to debate health care coverage and pass a health care bill, while not bothering to addressing the risk many will face by losing the coverage they have if the subsidies aren’t extended.

I observed back in Cutting Costs, Corners . . . and Concerns that I was grateful for the health care coverage I had because of my brief visit to a local emergency room and therefore would never go without it again.  I could have faced massive bills because of one drunken night.  I guess I still believe that, but I’m a bit apprehensive about where that money will come from, especially since the firm also informed us in that same letter that our monthly premiums will increase to over six hundred dollars a month in January 2010!  Insane.  I guess Aetna intends to pull in as much money as possible in anticipation of the a new health care bills.  Or maybe the firm has decided to pay less and is now making us pay more.

COBRA seems to me like the absolute least any government could have done.  This piece of legislation just mandated that employers make available to laid-off employees the same health care coverage they enjoyed while employed, but with the employee paying full price.  Health care reform is drastically needed in this country for too many reasons I need not get into here, but one which I’ll mention is that apparently COBRA doesn’t preclude price increases.

I lived in Europe for over three years: in Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands.  I sought help in each county for various medical conditions: an ear infection, a severe cold, general check-ups, and other conditions.  Each time I simply found a doctor, made an appointment, and was seen.  I paid a nominal fee.  The best coverage I found was in former East Germany.  One doctor pulled out an EKG machine in the office and checked me because she thought she heard a heart murmur.  Another doctor flushed my ear to help clean it out and eliminate the infection.  As a student I was required—if I remember correctly—to obtain health care coverage for a small monthly premium.  No whopping fees for these treatments.  Something happened; I needed to be seen.  I was.  Yet here in the United States, the doctor visit doesn’t end with a well wish from the doctor.  Instead, we spend the next few months in fear of the bills that we eventually get from the insurance company, the doctor’s office, the medical lab, and possibly even the bill collector when we can’t pay the first three.  Even with effectively a five-hundred-dollar a month health care plan, I still must pay part of the lab testing results and sometimes what’s not covered by the doctor’s office.  I wonder how much one must pay a month to have absolute and complete coverage, where nothing is refused and no left-overs are passed on to the patient?

Hopefully Congress will extend its health care subsidies and also come up with an enlightened health care plan for Americans.  I fear, though, that it’s already too late.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 18, 2009 at 23:39

One Response

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  1. Paying over $500/month for one person is insane! Have you checked out ehealthinsurance.com? It works like hotels.com and travelocity.com- you look at plans and compare prices and then apply for the ‘group’ you want to join. I pay about $140/month for BlueCross! Might be a better option than the COBRA coverage…

    Kathleen

    December 20, 2009 at 12:47


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