If you were laid off or lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering about the status of both your medical and your dental insurance. In many cases, a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows you to continue your coverage even after losing your job.
What is COBRA?
COBRA requires group health plans to allow workers and families who lose their health benefits to continue getting coverage for up to 18 months after the loss of a job. If you lose your job due to layoffs, have your hours reduced, or experience certain life events, you can continue your coverage under COBRA.
When will COBRA cover dental services during COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to either lose their jobs or have their hours cut. These are considered qualifying events under COBRA when they happen to an employee.
COBRA generally requires that the employer who sponsored the group policy have at least 20 employees.¹ Although you will now have to pay the premiums out of your own pocket, the coverage remains the same as it was while you were employed.
If your employer-sponsored policy included dental coverage, the same coverage will continue under COBRA. If dental was not part of the policy, you will have to seek dental coverage elsewhere.
Some employer-sponsored health benefits bundle medical, dental, mental health and vision under one policy. Others split the types of coverage between different insurers. If your dental policy was from a different company than your medical, you can still get coverage under COBRA but will have to fill out a separate application in addition to the one you complete to continue your health coverage.
For example, if your company’s health policy was with Insurance Company A and your dental policy was with Insurance Company B, you will have to apply for COBRA coverage twice: once to continue your medical coverage and second for your dental.
If you choose to continue your dental insurance coverage through COBRA during the COVID-19 crisis, all the benefits you had through your employer-sponsored dental policy continue uninterrupted. For example, if your policy included 100% coverage of preventive care, like examinations, cleanings, fluoride treatments, X-rays, and sealants, then that same level of coverage continues with the policy under COBRA. If the original policy included deductibles, annual maximums, and restrictions on pre-existing conditions, those same limitations become a part of the policy under COBRA.
What will dental insurance cost under COBRA during COVID-19?
COBRA seems quite expensive when you first see the premiums. Remember that, when you were employed, your employer probably paid most of the premiums for you and took out a small amount from your check each pay period to cover the rest. Now, you must pay the entire premium out of your own pocket, making the coverage seem high.
Other dental insurance options
You can also purchase your own individual dental insurance policy. Individual dental insurance is a type of dental insurance you can purchase on your own or for your family from a dental insurance company online. Unlike employer-sponsored group plans, individual dental insurance allows you to compare plans before choosing the one that makes the most sense for your needs and budget.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.
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https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/health-plans/cobra (Last accessed April 2020)