Health insurance
As part of the economic stimulus package passed by Congress, the federal government is going to step in and pay some of your health insurance premium if you were recently laid off from a job that is covered by COBRA.
Companies with at least 20 employees are required to offer health insurance for up to 18 months to former employees. The way it works though is that the ex-employee must pay 100 percent of the entire premium bill and often can also be hit with a 2 percent administrative fee. That makes staying on your ex-employer's plan financially tough. Under the new economic stimulus legislation, your employer will pick up 65 percent of the cost for the first nine months that you use COBRA coverage, leaving you to cover a more manageable 35 percent. (Your employer will then be able to recoup its cost through tax credits.) Employers and employees can learn more at the Department of Labor's website.

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You know I am adamant that you can never afford to go without health insurance. Now, this new assist from the federal government should go a long way to help you stay insured if you have been laid off.

The government coverage is available to anyone who was laid off between September 1, 2008, through the end of 2009 and whose employer does in fact provide COBRA health coverage for former employees. If you were laid off since September 1, but you turned down your employers COBRA offer, you now have 60 days to contact your old company and ask to enroll in the insurance program. You will be charged for 35 percent of the cost, and your employer will recoup the other 65 percent directly from the government.

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Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.


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