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When You Switch Companies or Take Time Off

It is quite a hassle to go from one job to another, or move to a different state and have to re-enroll for health insurance with an entirely new company. Sometimes you are left without any coverage, struggling to keep the old while getting the new. It is good to know that there are some laws that help protect you here.

You may be restricted from immediate healthcare coverage under a new group plan and given a waiting period for coverage to begin. This is why COBRA is an option, which gives you creditable coverage from your old plan to help while your new plan is being put on hold. While it is alright for companies to impose waiting periods on new members, this waiting period cannot vary from person to person on health status reasons. An HMO may also require a waiting period, called an affiliation period, but there is a time limit of two months, three for late enrollees, and you cannot be charged premiums during this period.

If you go on maternity leave or are gone from work or your group for a limited time because of a death or serious illness that you or your family may have, you are guaranteed coverage for a certain period of time. This is determined by the Family and Medical Leave Act, known as the FMLA, and covers you for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.

This is usually what is going on when your doctor leaves to have a baby or your co-worker leaves to help treat a family member or him/herself for an illness. You will still be charged the premium during this time since you are being covered with the same benefits. If you do not return to work after the leave period, you may have to reimburse your employer for the share of insurance that they covered for the premium. If you do not return to work due to the same circumstance for which you left, you will most likely not be charged the employer’s share of premium.