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Alaska COBRA Insurance
If you live in Alaska and either quit your job, lost your job, or retired from your job - you are probably thinking about Alaska COBRA insurance. You want to know what it is, how it works, and if it is something you should sign up for. Health insurance is extremely important and in this difficult time, understanding all of your options is extremely important. Knowing what health plans to investigate, how they work, and how much they cost will help you make smart decisions for you and your family. It will also make sure that you do not experience a time without medical insurance, miss an opportunity to sign up for Alaska COBRA plans, or pay too much for your plan.
COBRA Insurance in Alaska
The first health insurance option that most people think about after job loss is COBRA medical insurance. COBRA is an option set up through the federal government that allows people to maintain their employer-sponsored insurance for up to 18 months if they quit, lose, or retire from their job if they meet certain requirements. It also allows family members to keep their coverage.
The most important thing to know about Alaska COBRA coverage is that it actually is a federal law, not an insurance plan. The law states that people who meet three conditions - qualifying plan, qualifying event, and qualifying beneficiaries - have the option to keep the exact same health insurance plan they had when they were working. The main difference is that if you decide to keep the plan with COBRA you will be responsible for paying the entire premium (both what you paid and what your employer paid) and it will only last 18 months. Everything else will stay the same including doctors, co-payment, deductibles, and prescription coverage.
Most people find that they qualify for COBRA insurance if they work at a company with at least 20 employees who were covered by the health insurance plan and did not lose their job due to gross misconduct. In addition any family members who were also covered by your plan will also be covered with COBRA.
In Alaska your only COBRA insurance option is through the federal law. Some states, like California, offer their own mini COBRA plans that extend benefits to people who don't meet the federal requirements. Currently this option does not exist for Alaska COBRA insurance.
Other Health Insurance Options in Alaska
Since COBRA insurance is so expensive, most people also find it beneficial to explore other medical insurance options. In fact, COBRA usually costs the average individual over $400 monthly and the average family over $1000 monthly since you must pay the full premium. Luckily there are more affordable options out there that you should consider before signing up for Alaska COBRA coverage.
- Individual or Family Plans Health Plans: For people and families without major medical conditions who want to find coverage that is similar to what they are used to, a private individual or family plan is usually the best option. These plans most closely resemble a typical full coverage plan and come at a 40%-65% discount when compared to COBRA in most cases if you are generally healthy. These plans come much cheaper because you are only covering yourself (or your family) so you only pay for your needs. When you stay with your former plan with COBRA, the plan covers all the employees at the company whether they are healthy or sick. That significantly drives up the cost.
- Short Term and Catastrophic Plans: The second place many people look when exploring their options is at short term and catastrophic plans. These types of plans offer exactly what they sound like. Short term plans offer short term coverage for anywhere between 1 day to 1 year and are best suited for people who know they will have coverage from another job soon. They cover major medical expensive if they arise and normally are very inexpensive. The second plan, catastrophic coverage, can be used for long term coverage but will only cover major medical needs. They normally do not include any routine medical care, have high deductibles, but have a very low monthly premium. They are best suited to people who rarely go to the doctor and only want coverage in case something major happens.
- Government Medical Insurance Plans: The final option that people should always explore is governmental programs through the state of Alaska and/or the federal government. These plans are normally limited to people under a certain income level and sometimes will only apply to children. However if you qualify they are a great and very low cost health insurance option.
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Alaska Frequently Asked Questions
Does Alaska have its own Mini COBRA plan for people who don't qualify for the federal plan?
Unfortunately Alaska has not yet created a state level COBRA insurance program to extend benefits to people who work at smaller companies. If you do not qualify under the federal plan then you will need to look at state sponsored insurance or private insurance.
I just can't afford COBRA, are there any governmental insurance programs in Alaska?
Fortunately there are some state sponsored health plans through the Alaska Health Services department that are meant to help people living at or near the poverty line. For children without insurance, the state has a program called Denali KidCare, which provides free or reduced insurance to children of non-working parents. Additionally there is a Medicaid program in Alaska for people below a certain income level and Alaska Comprehensive Health Insurance Association-FED for people who have been denied coverage due to preexisting conditions.
How long does COBRA coverage last in Alaska?
The COBRA program through the federal government normally lasts 18 months. IN cases of divorce, death of the covered employee, or loss of dependent status, coverage will usually last 3 years. Additionally for a second qualifying event during coverage, like disability, many times coverage will be extended an extra 11 months, bringing the term length to 29 months in total.
Can I really save money by using a private company instead of COBRA in Alaska?
Many people do save money when they switch to a private company because the plan is written specifically for their needs and situation. Employer sponsored plans have to cover everyone – whether they are healthy or not – those plans usually are very expensive because the risk is much higher for the insurance company. Therefore they can cut the cost when they are able to write a policy specifically around one person/family's needs, especially if you are relatively healthy.
My company just shut down, can I sign up for Alaska COBRA?
Sadly in most cases you will not be eligible for COBRA if the company is no longer in business. COBRA is a continuation of a health insurance plan so the plan must still be active for it to work under COBRA. Since most plans are canceled when a business closes, COBRA isn't normally an option.