Sad Truth About COBRA

COBRA premium assistance, as well as extension of coverage, are included in the economic stimulus package that just passed in the Senate today. (“American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009″ section 3001)

Undoubtedly, this will keep many families from losing health care coverage. However, it points to serious problems within our health care system that need to be properly addressed for the long term.

COBRA, The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, was passed in 1986 as a way to protect employees with group coverage from losing that coverage after experiencing a job loss or death of the covered spouse.

Intended to fill the gap until other coverage is obtained, the escalating cost of individual health insurance coupled with fewer companies offering group coverage has left many Americans out in the cold. With unemployment on the rise, the number of available jobs offering group health coverage is dwindling.

COBRA, as it stands today, lasts 18 months after the loss of a job, or 36 months after divorce or death of the covered employee. The covered individual is 100 percent responsible for premiums. If you can afford the premiums, you’ve got 18-36 months to find alternate coverage. If you can’t afford the premiums, you’re out of luck.

If after your COBRA period ends, you are not eligible for group coverage, the individual market is your next option. If you have a pre-existing condition, things get complicated. Laws differ from state to state. Some states have no protection for people with pre-existing conditions and you may be denied coverage. Other states mandate that a policy of some kind must be offered, but the type of policy is at the discretion of the insurance company, and there is no cap on premiums. Some states offer a high-risk pool; others do not.

For those currently facing loss of insurance, COBRA changes in the stimulus bill will provide temporary relief. But millions of people have already used up their COBRA without finding accessible and affordable coverage, many with chronic conditions that are not being properly tended to. What will we do for them?

While the stimulus package does include some important provisions for health care, we cannot lose site of the larger picture. Today, in the United States of America, you can find yourself un-insured, or seriously under-insured, because you have the misfortune of having a health issue and no access to group coverage.

If we’re serious about overhauling the health care system, providing coverage to all is essential. You can tell a lot about a people by how they treat their ill. What does that say about us?


William C
William C3 months ago

Thanks for caring.

W. C
W. C3 months ago

Thank you for the information.

Ivelisse Santiago

If you are not insured or under insured you must take a look at this, and please share with anyone who may benefit.

Charlotte H.
Charlotte H.8 years ago

With Ann's permission, I'm posting about an article I'm writing for AARP Bulletin, focusing on the recently passed COBRA subsidies and how they effect people in their readership (ages 50 to 64) who don't yet qualify for Medicare. Do you fall in that age group and qualify for COBRA subsidy due to a job layoff (yours or your spouse's). If so, I'd be interested in interviewing you regardless of whether or not you're signing up for COBRA. Please contact me as soon as possible at I have to wrap up interviews by week's end. Many thanks, Charlotte

linda z.
linda z8 years ago

At 55 and divorced, I found myself having to pay #350/month for cobra insurance. Being in good health, having no pre-existing conditions, and not having abused the system, one year later the premium jumped to $370/month. Why? Where are these monies going? Why are they not being used to help those who have no insurance?

Elinor Israel
Elinor Israel8 years ago

I have paid into Cobra for the past three months (over $1,000). I lost my card and now they can't find me in the system! My insurance at work starts up in March. I have to go through all kinds of red tape to ensure that my pre-existing conditions will be covered. What a racket!

Chari Rudolph
Charilyn Rudolph8 years ago

COBRA is an evil snake! Most Insurance is blatant EXTORTION! The mob treated it's victims better than the American insurance industry treats it's policy holders. By the way, the insurance industry is one of the most profitable industries in our history. Furthermore, Insurance company employees have no business dictating what kind of medical tests or care a patient may need. These "middle men" should have NOTHING to say about the direct care a doctor deems necessary to give a patient! Why is it so difficult for American's to see that "A HEALTH CARE SYSTEM THAT IS BASED ON PROFIT...WILL ONLY KEEP PEOPLE SICK AND POVERTY STRICKEN! Open your eyes AMERICA...we MUST kick the "insurance" habit and make health care a basic human right as most other developed industrialized countries do successfully. Keep in mind, that US citizens already pay almost 50% of our income in taxes...income tax, property tax, luxury tax, state tax, local tax, city tax, county tax, gas tax, excise tax, social security tax, medicare tax, sales tax, access tax, disposal tax, waste tax and many more...just check out the long list of government tax codes on their websites- check federal, state and local tax codes. Even people who have health insurance, don't get the quality of care or all available options to achieve optimal health. Our nations health is shameful and embarrassing! The USA can do better for it's least give us what our Congress has given themselves!

Julie H.
Julie H8 years ago

I live in the midwest where we have CareNow centers. These centers offer insurance if you use their doctors. I checked into this for my daughter. You pay a small one time start up fee and then $18 /month. Hospital care and ER needs are included as well as prescriptions for a small fee as well. It certainly is something to check out. I hope this helps.

Lars S.
Larry S8 years ago

Everyone knows what a 'cobra' is and it seems the company Cobra is no different, just another snake in the grass.
Premiums charged for someone now out of work are way higher than most people can afford, usually $400.00 monthly.
So that makes just another greedy corporation.
How is it that this once 'rich' country can and could not give better health care to it's citizens???

Debbie Richardson

I lost my husband suddenly at the age of 52. He was employed at UPS. I have a pre-existing condition (brain tumor and resulting seizures) and my COBRA costs over $700/month to include me and my dependent son. The cost of COBRA is totally outrageous! Can't afford to go without insurance...