You can’t. And the WSJ‘s got a write out today explaining just how few people take advantage of COBRA:
Fewer than one in 10 jobless workers extends their former employer’s medical coverage, a new study has found.
An analysis by the Commonwealth Fund finds that while two-thirds of working adults would qualify to extend health-insurance coverage under a federal law after losing a job, only 9% of the unemployed do so.
Workers are guaranteed the right to extend their medical benefits for a limited period under a federal law called Cobra, short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The law generally covers group health plans of private and government employers with 20 or more workers, according to the Labor Department.
The Commonwealth Fund analysis, based on 2007 health-insurance survey data, found that most workers can’t afford to pay for Cobra coverage. It costs an average $13,000 a year for a family, compared with the average annual worker contribution of $3,200 for family coverage while employed.
That is because the employer usually is picking up three-quarters of the cost of health insurance. Under Cobra, employees must pay the total cost, plus a 2% administrative fee.
“In other words, you have to pay an extra $10,000 because you have lost the amount your employer was contributing to the coverage, and people who are newly unemployed find it very hard to afford,” said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports health-care research.
I’ve been there. It’s the final straw that pushed me into fighting for reform. When I lost my job, I had severance for a while, and then COBRA kicked in. It was more than $400/month. That’s a lot of money when you have no money coming in.