Keeping your health insurance when your work situation changes.

COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The law allows people who had insurance through a school or an employer, but lost it, to continue their same plan or coverage for a certain period of time through a private insurance company.

There are a number of qualifying events that would allow you to take advantage of insurance coverage under COBRA. These include death of a family member through whom you got health insurance, termination of employment, reduction of hours, divorce, and loss of dependent status. You will be notified of your COBRA rights when you first sign up for a health insurance plan. When you are no longer eligible for that plan, you will also be notified of you rights. Once the insurance company has notified you that you are eligible for COBRA benefits, you have 60 days to accept of decline.

Coverage under COBRA generally lasts 18 months. Some disabled people are eligible to keep COBRA coverage for 29 months, and some dependents are eligible for 36 months of coverage.

When you elect to use COBRA, you are required to pay the entire premium (i.e., what you normally paid, plus the share that your employer paid). This may result in the cost of your coverage dramatically increasing, although it may still be less expensive than buying health insurance. Be sure to also check if you are eligible for one of the public plans, like Healthy New York, Family Health Plus, and Medicaid.