Jobless liable on health cover

| 16/03/2009

(CNS): People who lose their jobs are liable for the payment of all of their health care premiums from the first day of the month following the termination of their employment. According to Superintendent of Health Insurance Mervyn Connolly, while employers are obligated to keep their former employees on the company policy for up to three months after they let someone go, they are not liable for any of the payments.

“The Health Insurance Commission has been receiving increasing numbers of enquiries regarding what happens to your health insurance coverage if you lose or change your job,” he said. “Employees should not assume that continued coverage is automatic, and they should know their rights under the law.”

He said that employers health insurance obligations don’t end when they decide to terminate an employee’s contract as the Health Insurance Law (2005 Revision) says employees’ health insurance ends on the first day of the month following departure from a job. However, if employees lose their jobs and are not immediately employed elsewhere, they can keep existing health insurance for up to three months from the date of termination of work or until they gain new employment, whichever occurs earlier. An employer cannot refuse to extend the cover of a terminated employee. Doing so can lead to a fine of up to $5,000. However, following termination, it becomes the employee’s responsibility to pay the entire premium, unless the employer has agreed to pay it as part of a severance agreement.

Connolly said employers should proactively engage their staff on the issue of health insurance. “As soon as you know that you have to let someone go, sit down and discuss the matter immediately,” he said.

He added that employers should offer to keep the employee (and dependents — children and/or an unemployed spouse) on the group policy; make arrangements regarding how the premiums will be made; remind the employee that he/she will be responsible for 100% of the premiums if the employer is not offering to pay them; and honour employee requests to continue coverage for themselves and dependents.                          

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