By Phyllis C. Borzi, Assistant Secretary, Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration
Losing your job can be a frightening prospect that affects your life in many ways. Workers lose income, the security of a steady job and often, the health benefits that go along with working full time. It is important to know what rights you have under the law, and what you can do to prevent a loss of health coverage. Although you may not realize it, you do have options:Special Enrollment in Another Group Health Plan
If other group health plan coverage is available (for example, if your spouse has a job that offers health coverage), consider special enrollment. Special enrollment allows you and your family to enroll in a plan for which you are otherwise eligible, regardless of enrollment periods. Enrollment must be requested within 30 days of losing eligibility for other coverage. This type of coverage is usually the most cost-effective of all of the options. For more information about special enrollment, visit our HIPAA publication.COBRA Continuation Coverage
If your employer continues to operate and offer a plan, COBRA continuation coverage may be available. COBRA would allow you and your family to continue the same group health coverage at group rates. Your cost for coverage may be higher than what you were paying before but generally is lower than that for private, individual health insurance coverage. The plan should send you a notice of availability and you have 60 days to elect coverage. COBRA coverage typically lasts 18 months. Find more information about COBRA.Affordable Care Act
For young adults, most health plans that cover children now must make coverage available on a parent’s plan up to age 26. And for those who have been denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition and who have been uninsured for at least six months, Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Programs make health coverage available. For more information, visit www.healthcare.gov as well as the Department of Labor’s dedicated Affordable Care Act Page.Government Programs
State or Federal programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare may be available. You should contact your State Insurance Commissioner’s Office or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for more information about these options.Private, Individual Health Insurance
You may qualify for guaranteed access to such coverage under HIPAA or be able to obtain it without meeting these criteria. The cost of individual coverage is often higher than similar coverage under a group health plan through special enrollment or COBRA. For more information contact the resources noted under Government Programs.
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) administers the Federal law that governs health benefit plans provided by private sector employers. This includes these important protections for those facing difficult economic times. If you have questions about your health coverage rights under the law, contact EBSA online by visiting our Consumer Assistance page or call 1.866.444.3272.
When you’re selecting a health insurance plan, you’ll want to consider more than just the cost. Here are some common questions you should ask yourself when looking at your options:
- Do I have the right to go to any doctor, hospital, clinic or pharmacy I choose?
- Are specialists such as eye doctors and dentists covered?
- Does the plan cover special conditions or treatments such as pregnancy, psychiatric care and physical therapy?
- Does the plan cover home care or nursing home care?
- Will the plan cover all medications my physician might prescribe?
- What are the deductibles? Are there any co-payments?
- What is the most I will have to pay out of my own pocket to cover expenses?
- If there is a dispute about a bill or service, how is it handled? In some plans, you may be required to have a third-party decide how to settle the problem.
If you’re between jobs, you have option of extending your employer’s health care through COBRA. This publication explains your rights under COBRA.
DNS - Domain Name System - is an Internet service that converts user-friendly domain names, such as www.fbi.gov, into numerical addresses that allow computers to talk to each other. Without DNS and the DNS servers operated by Internet service providers, computers would not be able to browse web sites, send e-mail, or connect to any Internet services.
Criminals have infected millions of computers around the world with malware called DNSChanger which allows them to control DNS servers. As a result, the cyber thieves have forced unsuspecting users to visit fraudulent websites and made their computers vulnerable to other kinds of malicious software.
Children’s healthy development depends on safe and positive experiences when they are young. There are several child care options available to families:
- Childcare.gov can help you locate safe and affordable child care options near you.
- Head Start is a federal program that helps children ages birth to five years old from low income families prepare for school. In addition to education, the program provides health, nutrition, and social services depending on your family’s needs.
- The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program assists families with children whose parents or responsible caregivers cannot provide for the family’s basic needs. To apply for the program, contact your state’s TANF office.
By Lorelei Jones, North Carolina State University, part of the USDA Extension Program.
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is a federally funded nutrition education program conducted through the Cooperative Extension Service in every state and US territory.
The program serves limited resource families and school-age youth, including those who qualify for other food assistance programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Electronic Benefits Transfer, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Head Start, or free and/or reduced lunches.
Through the program, you learn how to make a food budget and how to select foods that will satisfy your family’s nutritional needs.
One EFNEP program in North Carolina showed families how to utilize all available resources for purchasing fruits and vegetables on a budget by using WIC Farmers’ Market coupons.
After completing the program, one participant said, “Since I have made changes in how I prepare and choose foods I have lost weight and have felt better and healthier. My family enjoys the food more than they have in the past, and the changes I learned in this class were not hard to do. It just took some time and practice.”
The Library of Congress recently launched a new exhibition about Books That Shaped America. It features influential books that were written by Americans, such as:
- The Catcher in the Rye
- The Great Gatsby
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Little Women
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Currently, there are 88 books on the list and the Library of Congress hopes you will select the ones that you think shaped America and touched your life the most. They also want you to nominate books that you think are important, but aren’t on the list.
What percent of an IRA does a person have to take each month after they are 70 years old?
Asked by Charlie on Facebook.
If you have a traditional IRA, you must receive a minimum distribution starting when you are 70 1/2 years old. In order to figure out what that amount is, you must first find your account balance on December 31 of the previous year. Then divide that number by the applicable distribution period or life expectancy. You can find those numbers in the Life Expectancy Tables in the IRS publication on IRAs.
If you have a Roth IRA, you are not required to take distributions at any age. The minimum distribution rules that apply to traditional IRAs do not apply to Roth IRAs while the owner is alive.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides advice on fireworks safety and statistics about fireworks injuries. If you plan to use fireworks this Fourth of July, read this first.
From the CPSC:
Fireworks. They are synonymous with our celebration of Independence Day. Yet, the thrill of fireworks can also bring pain, and even death. In 2011, CPSC staff conducted a study of fireworks injuries from June 17 to July 17. Here’s what we learned.
Most Injured Body Parts
- 200 people on average go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.
- 65% of these fireworks injuries in 2011 occurred during the month surrounding July 4th.
- Illegal and homemade fireworks were involved in all 4 fireworks-related deaths reported to CPSC in 2011
Injuries by Fireworks Type
- 46%: Hands and fingers
- 17%: Eyes
- 17%: Heads, faces, and ears
- 5%: Trunk
- 4%: Arms
- 11%: Legs
- More than half the injuries were burns.
Injuries by Age
- 17%: Sparklers
- 14%: Reloadable Shells
- 13%: Firecrackers
- 7%: Roman Candles
- 6%: Bottle Rockets
- 6%: Novelties
- 2%: Multiple Tubes
- 1%: Fountains
- 3%: Public Display
- 29%: Unspecified
Injuries by Gender
- 40%: 25-44
- 10%: 10-14
- 10%: 15-19
- 9%: 20-24
- 9%: 5-9
- 7%: 0-4
- 1%: 65+
Fireworks Safety Tips
- 68%: male
- 32%: female
- Males were most injured from firecrackers, sparklers, bottle rockets, novelty devices, Roman candles, and reloadable shells.
- Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying our using them.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 2011 Fireworks Annual Report