Laid off? Here are six tips for managing your healthcare costs

With pink slips being handed out left and right these days, it’s time to get practical and think about how to manage your insurance and other medical costs in the event you are laid off. Here are six tips:

1. See if you can get on your spouse’s plan.

If your spouse has health insurance through their employer, check to see if you can be added to their plan. Generally, you can join your spouse’s plan within 30 days of losing eligibility for your current coverage. It’s a special event for which you don’t have to wait for open enrollment.

2. If that isn’t an option, consider COBRA.

By law, employers must provide laid-off workers information about COBRA, a government mandate that gives workers the right to choose to continue coverage under the employer’s group plan for a limited period. The average monthly premium for COBRA is $300 for an individual and $1,000 for a family. However, thanks to the recently passed federal stimulus legislation, many workers who have been laid off can receive a 65 percent subsidy for up to nine months of COBRA, meaning that you only have to pay 35 percent of the total cost. For a family, that can reduce the average burden from $1,000 per month to $350 per month — saving the family about $6,000 over a nine-month period.

3. If COBRA’s too expensive, investigate SCHIP.

If you can’t afford COBRA premiums for the entire family, you can consider moving the children to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides coverage for children in low- to moderate-income families. You can learn more about SCHIP here.

4. Work with your doctor to reduce your medical and drug costs.

Have a heart-to-heart with your family physician and tell him or her how much you can really afford to pay for prescription medications. When your doctor is unaware of your financial situation, he or she usually doesn’t think twice about a drug’s price — and may prescribe an expensive drug that’s no more effective than a cheaper alternative. There may also be drugs you can eliminate from your regimen altogether.

5. If your job was shipped overseas, check out the Health Coverage Tax Credit.

Thanks to the federal stimulus package, the government will now pay as much as 80 percent of your health insurance premiums if you are eligible to receive benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Learn more about this program here.

6. Look into prescription drug assistance programs.

Together Rx Access, a discount card offered by drug companies, has raised the income eligibility threshhold for the program, which offers significant discounts of a wide range of medications. The annual income requirement now ranges from $45,000 or less a year for a single person (up from $30,000) to $105,000 or less for a family of five (up from $70,000).

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

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