Starting a New Job? Manage Wellness until You are Eligible for Benefits

How to Maintain Your Health During Gaps in Health Insurance

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With the still-shaky job market in many regions, maintaining a job for the long term isn’t always possible. This means many Americans will be without adequate health insurance for brief periods of time until they are eligible again for group health benefits from a new employer. There are often wait periods of between 30 to 90 days with many employers, so the pause in coverage may be longer for some employees and their dependents.

Rising Costs of Health Insurance Mean Many Go Without

Even if individuals are eligible for health care coverage from state-run marketplaces, these benefits may not be as affordable as one may expect, without the support of government grants. For example, the author's family in New York was faced with either paying for COBRA coverage at almost double the rate of their former group health insurance plan, or the state marketplace benefits that cost just as much – both plans having an $10,000 out of pocket annual deductible. It was not worth it to even buy into plans like these, so the family opted to go without health care coverage, taking the chance that one of the working adults would gain access to a cheaper group health insurance plan at some time in the near future.

During these times where there is no health insurance coverage or other employee benefits available until a certain date, how can an individual or family protect their health?

Having Access to a Cash-only Medical Provider

In most communities, there are low cost and cash-only medical providers who can address routine and non-emergent health care concerns. They typically charge around 50% less than traditional medical centers and as much as 90% less than a hospital emergency room.

The idea is to head there as soon as any health symptoms present so that any illnesses or injuries do not become serious enough to warrant hospital specialist care. You may also want to talk with your current primary care physician about your status and see if he or she can reduce your medical bill for paying by cash or credit card. The author's family in New York, as mentioned above, was able to negotiate a 50% discount on an expensive piece of required medical equipment by paying cash and saved $700.

Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

Another vital component of maintaining health during gaps in employee benefits is to make a concerted effort to lead a healthy lifestyle. This includes plenty of healthy eating, exercise, and rest. Take advantage of your company wellness program. Over the counter and alternative wellness products can alleviate the annoyance of colds and allergies. Reducing stress can play a big role in helping you to stay healthy while you wait to become eligible for your employer’s benefit plans. Stop smoking and using alcohol products. Making these habits a regular part of your family lifestyle can also help them to remain healthy.

Buying Medical Savings Plans or Using Health Savings Accounts

Depending on if your previous employers offered this or not, you may have some funds available to you in a health savings account you can use for emergency care and cash-only medical services.

A health savings plan is normally offered as part of a high deductible health care plan, so check to see if you have this available to you. You can also pay into low cost and short term medical savings plans and discount programs to get discounts for dental and vision care.

During the brief period that you are without health insurance, be sure to pay attention to any health concerns and never skip out on regular medication you need to stay healthy. Work with your health care provider to help you through this time and maintain your well-being until you can purchase your group health coverage again.