May 22, 2022

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Quit your job? Here’s what to do about health insurance

In November, 4.5 million people quit their jobs, according to data from the Labor Department released earlier this week.

And they are leaving for a variety of reasons: higher pay, better benefits, more flexible schedules, more fulfilling work, new challenges — including starting their own business — and they’re even retiring early.

And while it’s a hot market for job seekers at the moment, workers should consider the benefits they might be giving up when they leave their jobs.

A big one is employer-sponsored health insurance.

“Most employees know that their employers offer health insurance benefits, but they don’t necessarily always realize how much employers subsidize the cost,” Tami Simon, a corporate consulting leader at employee benefits firm Segal, told CNN Business in November.

Here’s what you need to know about your health insurance options once you call it quits.

Life after work: Continuing health insurance

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) generally requires employers with more than 20 workers to offer a temporary extension of health coverage to former employees, typically for up to 18 months.

“Employers will sometimes subsidize the cost of COBRA, but most don’t,” said Simon. “And employers are permitted to charge up to 102% of the applicable premium for COBRA.”

She added that employers are required to provide a COBRA notice that details an employee’s rights and responsibilities, including coverage costs.

Keep in mind that getting family health insurance on the job costs workers and their employers more than $22,000 a year, on average, according to the 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey. The employee typically pays about $6,000 of the tab, while the company picks up the rest. The average annual premium for a single employee in 2021 topped $7,700 a year. The worker typically pays about $1,300, and the employer covers the remaining charge.

But under COBRA, workers are generally responsible for the entire tab.

(The federal government had provided a COBRA premium subsidy for those who involuntarily lost their jobs and their work-based coverage, but that benefit expired at the end of September.)

How to financially prepare to quit your job
Another option is to find Affordable Care Act coverage on the public health exchanges. You can review available plans on healthcare.gov.

Open enrollment for 2022 coverage runs through January 15 in most states. But those who lose their job-based policies can sign up at any time of the year, typically within 60 days of their plan’s termination. The Biden administration also has made it easier to obtain coverage in 2022 through special enrollment periods.

Enrollees are eligible for more generous federal premium subsidies for 2022, as part of last year’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Four out of five consumers can find a plan for $10 or less per month after the federal assistance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

But without some kind of subsidy either from the government or from an employer — to help you afford health insurance, purchasing it on your own can be quite costly. So consider your options before you make the decision to leave your job.

“[Health care] is a lot more expensive than people expect,” Isabel Barrow, director of financial planning at Edelman Financial Engines, told CNN Business in November. “It’s really important that you consider that as part of your overall budget before you leave your job.”