If you purchase health insurance through your employer, the coverage is dependent on your employment. When you are laid off or lose your job for some other reason, the employer sponsored coverage comes to an end at the next billing cycle, usually 30 days after your last premium. If you wish to continue your coverage beyond that time, you can make use of the Comprehensive Omnibus Reconciliation Act, called COBRA, for up to 18 months, and that can be extended to 36 months in some cases.
COBRA lets you keep your existing health insurance, but you will be required to pay the full premiums, including any amount that was previously paid by your employer. This means that your health insurance is going to cost more than it previously did, plus the processing fee you have to pay to initiate the COBRA coverage. This may push the cost of coverage beyond what you are willing to pay, but if you have pre-existing conditions, COBRA may be the best way to keep your coverage while trying to find a new health insurance plan.
COBRA is not intended to replace health insurance. The idea behind the act was to prevent people from immediately losing their health insurance when their employment ended. Typically, you would use COBRA while waiting for your new health insurance plan to become effective, and then drop the COBRA plan in favor of your new insurance plan.
Once you have extended your coverage through COBRA, it is a good idea to start looking for a new health insurance policy. If you are not employed, you may still be able to get group health insurance through other clubs or organizations you belong to. AAA and AARP are two types of organizations that offer group health insurance to their members, but the same benefits may be available through other groups as well. And if you have preexisting conditions you will be glad to know that by January 1, 2014, all group health insurance plans will be required by law to accept you, regardless of preexisting conditions. In this circumstance, you could use the COBRA plan to see to your health needs until the new health care law goes into effect, and then apply for new insurance with any organization or employer which offers group health insurance.