Things to Consider After an Employment Separation

Maintaining Employee Benefits

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In the United States, most people receive health insurance coverage through their employer. In addition, some employers, particularly government agencies or large companies, will often provide additional benefits including disability, retirement, and life insurance

If you were recently separated from work, no matter the circumstances, and you were receiving any employer sponsored benefits it is VERY important to carefully review the terms in which you can continue coverage. Make sure to discuss your options with your employer’s Human Resources Department. Also inquire if your former employer has an insurance agent that you can contact and review your options with.

It is worth noting that for individual DISABILITY and LIFE insurance policies, which you can acquire outside of employment, the insurance companies can and will legally screen for HIV. So, unless you can acquire coverage again through a new employer, this could be your only chance at keeping these types of insurance coverage.

It might also be a good idea to speak with a benefits counselor at an AIDS Service Organization so that you understand what public benefits might be available to you, especially if you are considering filing for disability. One resource is APLA Health in Los Angeles

a. Health Insurance/COBRA Rights

Obviously, maintaining health insurance coverage is essential. You may be eligible to extend your group health insurance past employment through a federal law known by its acronym, COBRA. Through COBRA you can continue your group health coverage for 18 or 36 months after you leave employment, depending on the circumstances under which you separated from work.

The downside is that most employers will require you to pay the premiums which they will no longer subsidize, and the amount can be eye popping. The good news is that you might qualify for public benefits to help you pay the premiums or find a less expensive option through the Affordable Care Act. So, don’t give up hope. Again, depending on your circumstances, you might also qualify for government sponsored health care coverage such as Medicare and Medi-Cal. This is another good reason why you should seek out the assistance of a Benefits Counselor at a local AIDS service organization. If you are a registered client at one, check in with your case manager or social worker.

If you are entitled to COBRA coverage, the Plan Administrator has 14 days to provide you with notice after you leave employment and you have 60 days to choose the coverage. In many instances this notice will come from your employer. Look out for this letter, because sometimes it is not sent on time.

For additional information -

Additional resources -

b. Disability Coverage

You may also receive disability benefits through your employer. For healthy employees, this is an often-overlooked benefit. But if you become disabled, it can be a real lifeline as the benefits paid are usually much more generous than government benefits such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).

If you have become too sick to work even with an accommodation in place, you may consider filing for disability benefits. It is important to consider that in order to be eligible for private disability benefits that are provided BY your employer, you must file for these benefits while you are still employed. If you are leaving employment, but are not disabled, inquire if you are able to take the disability insurance with you.

Government provided disability coverage -

If you are unable to work short-term, you may qualify for government sponsored State Disability Benefits, which gives you benefits for up to 12 months during which you could not work. Most employees pay taxes into this program. For more information

For a long-term disability, you may be eligible for a Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability program. However, you are not eligible for this program until you are disabled for six months, and you can only begin receiving benefits after 12 months of disability. Therefore, this federal program will come into effect after your short-term State Disability Benefits have elapsed. For more information

c. Life Insurance

If you receive group life insurance through your employer, you should have the right to convert the policy from a group plan to an individual one. You may also have had a life insurance plan offered through your employer but where you paid the premium. Regardless, inquire about how you can continue coverage so that the plan is not terminated.

d. Pension or other Retirement Plan

Pension and retirement plans are complex. If you have a pension, which are becoming increasingly rare, the terms of vestment (or ownership) vary by employer. The length of your employment will usually determine the percentage of your vestment, up to 100%. It is even possible you have both a pension and a retirement plan such as a 401k plan.

You will need to decide what to do with your retirement account(s). This would also be a good time to make sure the beneficiary designations are current. Sometimes when you leave an employer you can keep your retirement/pension with your employer and still maintain ownership. However, it may be in your best interest to transfer or rollover these assets into another tax-qualified plan. But it is VERY important for you to follow all rules, so you do not wind up with a big tax bill. Discuss your options very carefully with your Human Resources Department and with your tax advisor if you have one.

Information about the Employee Retirement Income Security Act

Other Potential Benefits to Consider

Unemployment insurance is another potential government benefit you may qualify for when you leave a job

You also have a right to your last paycheck and in California, the employer does not have that much time in which they need to pay you. Depending on the circumstances of separation, it is up to 72 hours.

If you don’t receive your last paycheck you can file a complaint with the State Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor, and you may be entitled to additional penalties.

Additional information found here



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