I was laid off from a company with less than 20 employees but I heard that my state  just passed a law to extend COBRA to small companies. How do I find out more?

 A growing number of states require continuation of group coverage for terminated employees for businesses with less than  20 employees. These benefit plans are generically referred to as "mini-COBRA". The 65% premium subsidy applies to these members as well, but the administration of the benefits may be different than for larger companies. Some states require insurance carriers to fund the subsidy, and then be reimbursed through the carrier’s payroll tax credit. In addition, 13 states require that the insurance carrier handle the administration of state continuation, while 30 states require the employer to administer state continuation. The remaining balance of 8 states do not have any mini-COBRA provisions.

If you are eligible, the insurance company or the employer must notify you as soon as possible. Since most insurance companies are now working out plans for the administration of the new law so it probably will not help to contact them immediately at this time. If you receive no notice within the next 30 days then follow-up with the insurance company and the former employer.

In the meanwhile or if you are not sure if you will qualify, look for a low cost short term medical insurance policy to protect yourself. This Web site provides much more information to help decide whether COBRA of a COBRA alternative is the best option in your situation.

In any event, do not let more than 60 days go by without some type of major medical insurance or your right for  takeover benefits for pre-existing medical conditions will expire.

revised 4/8/09

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COBRA continuation coverage may provide temporary protection when changing jobs, going through a divorce or negotiating other life transitions. Choosing the right health insurance is crucial to protect your health and financial security.