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If I leave my job, will I lose my employer-sponsored health insurance?

If you leave your job, voluntarily or otherwise, you may be able to continue your employer-sponsored health insurance under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985. Eligibility does come with some restrictions, however.

Employers with 20 or more employees are required to offer continued health insurance for up to 18 months to employees who leave the company. The employer must make this offer in writing within 14 days of an employee's last working day. To qualify, you, the employee, must have been covered by the employer's health plan on the day before your employment status changed. There may also be state laws that affect your options. You should be aware that you are responsible for paying the premiums for COBRA, and the coverage is usually expensive. Your employer may also charge a fee, up to 2 percent of the monthly premium, for administrative costs.

If COBRA is not applicable in your case, other options are available. For example, you may be able to convert your employer-sponsored health plan to an individual health plan. Although you may not have to pass a medical exam, a pre-existing condition could be excluded.

Another option is to purchase a short-term health policy that covers your health costs on a temporary basis, usually two to six months. Short-term policies are generally not expensive, but you will not be covered for any pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies provide this coverage at reduced administrative costs and then pass the savings on to their customers.

A fourth option is to continue your health coverage through a professional association that offers health insurance to its members at reduced rates. This is a particularly good option if you are self-employed.