If you know that your health insurance coverage will be ending, there are a few steps you can take to make your transition to new coverage as smooth as possible.
Whether you are keeping your plan through COBRA, have other coverage already lined up, or need to start looking for options, read on—because the way you transition your coverage can be just as important as the new coverage itself.
Get your Certificate of Creditable Coverage
This is a document your health insurer must provide to you when your coverage ends. It’s just a piece of paper that simply states that you once had coverage through them, but it’s an important one.
Without a Certificate of Creditable Coverage showing you’ve had health insurance for at least the last 18 months, a new insurer may be able to exclude you from coverage for any pre-existing conditions the first few months. If you don’t automatically receive a copy, request one from your insurer and remember to check the dates for accuracy.
Get all your data
Once you are no longer a member of a health plan, you may lose access to your history of claims and payments. By signing up for a service like Simplee.com, you can pull all your past billing and claims information to preserve in an online account. This allows you to combine claims from your new plan and manage all your information together, seamlessly.
Compare coverage options
A great place to start is www.healthcare.gov, where the federal government has already done a lot of the work for you. The website will guide you towards all your options based on where you live, your family situation, health conditions, and more. And if you or your family members have doctors you must continue to see, don’t forget check whether your new options work with those physicians.
Mix things up
Remember, you do not have to cover yourself and all your family members on the same plan. It may be possible to enroll your kids in your local Medicaid or State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which will be far more affordable than private coverage.
If you are considering COBRA, many employers allow you to pick and choose which parts of coverage to continue: medical, vision, dental, or any of the three. You can also change to a different employer-sponsored plan if your former job offers more than one option to other employees—you don’t have to keep the plan you currently have.
Mind the gap
Whatever kind of coverage you end up choosing, the most important part is to not let more than 63 days lapse between coverage. Why 63?
According to HIPAA, the federal regulations that provide protection around continuation of health coverage, you can go 63 days without health insurance before it counts as a break in creditable coverage. Having that break in coverage means new plans can now look at your medical history when deciding whether to sell you insurance or how much to charge you.
Tomer Shoval is the CEO and Co-Founder of Simplee, a free online personal health care expense management tool. Connect with him on twitter, facebook or email.