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Do You Keep Health Insurance After Leaving a Job?

In the past, most American workers stayed at the same jobs for years on end. Since companies tended to promote from within and valued skills learned on the job above skills learned in an institution of higher education, employers had little incentive to cast a wide net in their search for talented workers. Although many employers would poach top employees from competing firms, few would look outside of the immediate sub-industry in which they operated for qualified workers. The relatively rare exceptions to this arrangement generally concerned highly-paid executives whose management experience was far more valuable than their industry-specific knowledge.

However, times have changed. Millions of American workers voluntarily leave their jobs every year. In this turbulent economy, millions more are laid off, reassigned or downsized. This creates a chaotic labor market that remains constantly in flux and can create serious logistical headaches for job seekers and human resources professionals alike.

If you're planning on quitting your job or suspect that you might be laid off in the near future, you should begin thinking about how to replace the benefits that you've been accruing through your employer. In most cases, the single most important and valuable employee benefit is health insurance. Naturally, it's also the most expensive benefit to replace after leaving a job.

Although the cost of health insurance varies widely depending upon your demographic and health profile, chances are good that you won't be able to find an individual health insurance policy that costs less than $100 per month. By contrast, the group health insurance policy that you're enjoying through your current employer may cost far less than this and provide significantly more benefits. Most low-cost individual health insurance policies won't pay the full cost of prescription drugs or doctor's visits. In addition, they may come with deductibles of $10,000 or more. If you're seriously injured or become critically ill, these plans won't start paying for your treatment until you've reached this limit.

In most cases, your employer-issued group health insurance will lapse at the end of the month during which you leave your job. Once this happens, you'll need to procure health insurance immediately in order to retain coverage. If you're young and healthy, you may be able to get an individual plan at a relatively low monthly cost. If you have a pre-existing condition or require certain types of medical treatment, you may wish to continue paying for your employer-sponsored plan through the federal COBRA program.

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