If you had health insurance coverage through your employer on the day you lost your job, you can continue your benefits for up to 18 months through a federal law called COBRA. You have to pay the full cost of COBRA coverage, even if your employer used to pick up all or part of the tab when you were employed. However, the cost of benefits through an employer is usually less than what you would pay for your own policy, because most employers negotiate a lower group rate.
To get COBRA benefits, both you and your employer must act within set deadlines.
Your former employer must notify the plan administrator of its insurance provider that your employment has been terminated. The employer has 30 days to provide this notice.
The plan administrator then has 14 days to give you an election notice, informing you of your right to continue benefits. If your employer administers its own health care plan, it has 44 days from the day you lose your job to give you an election notice.
When you receive your election notice, you have 60 days to notify the plan administrator that you want to continue your benefits through COBRA. If you choose to continue benefits, you must make your first premium payment within 45 days after electing COBRA coverage.
The procedures for actually using your insurance (that is, filing a claim for benefits) will depend on the terms of your plan.