17 September 2008

Health Insurance: COBRA and Dependents

Member Only. Because I had no dependents on my benefits while working, my COBRA "election" is for Member Only. Just me. For the past seven years, Tom and I have maintained separate insurance coverage through our employers. But what if Tom needs/wants coverage with me while I am under COBRA coverage?

The Call to the State. This was my only reason for calling my State retirement office regarding COBRA. The paperwork was clear for folks electing coverage for existing dependents, but only mentioned "adding newly acquired dependents" in a general way. I still considered the 10-page packet highly readable and low in complexity; it just didn't answer my specific need about a dependent who might become "newly acquired."

Qualifying Events. Birthing or adopting a child is so much more obvious a case of newly acquired dependent. Getting married, too. But Tom Bold just might be my newly acquired dependent in the future. Will the end of his COBRA coverage be a qualifying event to join me in my COBRA? The State says yes, although the representative first said no and had to be prompted to go check with a supervisor.

At What Cost? At least right now and rounding the dollars for easier reading, the projected cost is for health coverage to increase from $365 (Member Only) to $786 (Member + Spouse). Dental coverage will increase from $23 to $43.

By What Means? To add Tom as a dependent, first a qualifying event must occur. In our case, that would mean his own coverage must end (meaning, end of his lay-off-instigated COBRA). I would have to notify my State office in writing and also provide proof of Tom's insurability. Then, of course, I would also have to send the additional premiums.

Projecting the Need. Because we did not plan 2008 as the Great Transition Year, we are learning about COBRA, private insurance, and retirement in general in a hurry. But I don't think we're unique. I think most boomers hit these transitions with the same level of ignorance that we have. It's not that the information isn't out there, it's that we have to reach our own "teachable moment" for the information to have meaning. So, even though I like planning and projecting, I don't fault myself for not projecting our current needs. I had to get to this point in life to feel the full impact of the information.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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