Free COBRA health insurance ends Sept. 30: 3 options for the unemployed

COBRAs premium health insurance ends Sept 30

Overview: Unemployed? Here are 3 things you could do when your COBRA’s premium health insurance ends Sept. 30

  • Switch to an Affordable Care Act policy once your free coverage ends

  • Qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP)

  • Talk to your plan administrator and/or former employer

COBRA health insurance ends Sept. 30When Sept. 30 rolls around, it’ll be goodbye to that premium health coverage from COBRA and hello to many, many questions (and a bit of financial panic for the unemployed). But we’ll start by saying you shouldn’t panic — there are options that unemployed individuals could and should begin to consider now.

Keep these things in mind: It’s true that after Sept. 30, the group health plan can charge the usual COBRA premium for the coverage. And the premium assistance lasts through Sept. 30 but may end sooner if you reach the end of your maximum COBRA continuation coverage period which is, generally, 18 months.


Option 1: Switch to an Affordable Care Act policy once your free coverage ends.

The special enrollment period for Affordable Care Act coverage ends Aug. 15. Here’s why it’s a useful option: ACA policies — by contrast to COBRA coverage — are typically subsidized with tax credits that make the coverage more affordable.

In one particular case, a spouse lost their job and was on COBRA continuation coverage for health insurance. They didn’t have to pay the premiums (through Sept. 30) as a result of the American Rescue Plan (passed in March). The question was asked if there was anything available on Oct. 1 if the spouse was still unemployed by that time.

The American Rescue Plan requires employers to pay COBRA premiums for eligible former employees for April through September. The employers will be reimbursed through a tax credit. (The subsidy may last fewer than six months if someone’s COBRA eligibility ends before September, or if they become eligible for group coverage through their job or their spouse’s job.)

When the premium-free coverage ends, the spouse would qualify for a special enrollment period that allows them to switch to an Affordable Care Act policy. Not only that, but anyone who is unemployed at any point during 2021 will qualify for a premium-free comprehensive policy through the ACA for the rest of the year.

Related reading(s): What you need to do when free health insurance for unemployed people ends Sept. 30

Option 2: Qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP) to enroll in individual market health insurance coverage, such as through a Health Insurance Marketplace®.

When your COBRA premium assistance ends, you may be eligible for a SEP to enroll in coverage through a Health Insurance Marketplace®, or to enroll in individual health insurance coverage outside of the Marketplace. You may also qualify for a SEP when you reach the end of your maximum COBRA coverage period. Below are links to additional information.

  • For more information about enrolling in Marketplace coverage, see:


    • Or you can call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).

If your state has its own Marketplace platform, find contact information for your State Marketplace here:

You may apply for and, if eligible, enroll in Medicaid coverage at any time. For more information, go to:


Option 3: Talk to your plan administrator and/or former employer

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said some employers and COBRA administrators were still working out the details. If you believe you are eligible for the subsidy that ends after Sept. 30 and haven’t received a notice with the required forms, you can notify your former employer. In more detail, Pollitz encourages individuals to:

  1. Notify their former employer

  1. Fill out and sign this form, published by the Department of Labor

    1. Turn the form into your plan administrator if you’re already enrolled in COBRA

    2. Send the form to your former employer if you’re trying to sign up

Pollitz said if you have a relationship with your provider, you could also ask if it’s possible to wait a little longer to bill your insurer until the COBRA coverage kicks in.

Related reading(s): Stimulus Provides Free COBRA Health Insurance for Unemployed; What You Need to Know


Remember: The Affordable Care Act is over 60,000 pages long. Medicare is written over tens of thousands of pages. And Insurance Laws and Regulations are profoundly extensive. So if you’re wondering what to do when COBRA’s premium health insurance ends, we can help.

We understand that there is not a single “best” plan when it comes to health insurance — and it’s even more complicated when unemployment is involved. And we understand that your needs are unique.

This is where we come in. Contact us to get your questions answered! We’ll offer our expertise in health insurance so you’re taken care of during these complicated times.

Covered California Deadline Extended

Covered California deadline extended

Covered California deadline extended

Covered California Deadline ExtendedIn a meeting just recently, Covered California has elected to extend the open enrollment period, which ended on January 31, 2020. This new special enrollment period will allow anyone, not just those who would generally qualify for special enrollment, to enroll in health insurance plans until the end of April. Policies will be effective April 1, if you enroll on or before March 15. Or, the policy will be effective May 1, if you enroll between March 16 and April 30. This means that instead of waiting until the new enrollment period of October 2020, anyone in California who does not currently have health insurance can sign up through the healthcare system.

Why This is Important to You

If you do not have health insurance coverage right now, you could be at risk for a fine on your taxes for the 2020 year. California has elected to enact a penalty for all of those who do not have health care coverage during the 2020 year. When you file your taxes in 2021, you will be required to pay a total of $695 per adult or 2.5% of your annual income, whichever is higher, in fees for not having the required health insurance coverage (separate fees apply for families and children).

If you do not currently have health insurance, you should consider applying for a policy during this new enrollment period. No one will be exempt from the fee if a policy is not selected and paid for by the new April deadline. This means that you could be paying a large amount of money for not having the required coverage, or you can get help to sign up now and get the coverage that you need to protect yourself and your family.

It is important that you reach out to an insurance rep if you do not currently have a health insurance plan to take advantage of this new period and take up the opportunity to sign up for a new plan in order to avoid the penalties that will otherwise be imposed.

Who is Eligible?

All those who did not know about the fee/penalty for not having healthcare coverage over the 2020 year (known as the Individual Shared Responsibility Penalty) are eligible for this enrollment period. Likewise, anyone who previously purchased an off-exchange plan but has now determined that they would like to buy an on-exchange plan will be eligible to do so during this enrollment period. Effectively, everyone in California is eligible and may choose to purchase a plan through the exchange without a penalty or any of the named exemptions that would typically allow for a Special Enrollment Period.

Why This Period is Available

Covered California has chosen to reopen the enrollment period for California residents because of the new fees that are being imposed. Information about the new fees that will be levied against residents on your 2020 taxes were explained, however, they feel that the explanation was not sufficient and too many people within the region do not realize that they could be at risk of being charged these fees on their taxes in the coming year. As a result, Covered California has decided to give all residents another chance to get enrolled and avoid paying fees.

Also, Covered California felt that the enrollment numbers were far lower than what was expected for this year, especially with the implementation of the enrollment requirement and the penalty for lack of 2020 coverage. As a result, and because of the penalty to be imposed, they have decided to allow more people the opportunity to enroll in the plan. If you have not yet enrolled you should seek out help to take advantage of this period to make sure that your family has coverage for the 2020 year and that you will not be required to pay the penalty. If you do not select coverage, there is no exemption for this penalty for 2020

What You Need to Do

You should contact your current insurance agent (or, if you don’t have one, reach out to us) and work with them to enroll in healthcare coverage as soon as possible. This enrollment period is set to last only until April 30, 2020.  If, however, you choose not to take advantage of this special enrollment period, you will likely be charged fees of $695 per adult or 2.5% of your annual income for not being enrolled in a required healthcare plan.

Make sure that you are looking into a healthcare plan as soon as possible that will provide you with the type of coverage that you and your family needs for the 2020 year. These plans can be purchased through Covered California. They will provide you with at least the level of coverage required to avoid a penalty under the new individual mandate enacted by California for the 2020 tax year. If you do not purchase a plan through Covered California, you may be held liable for the penalty

How This Enrollment Period is Different

This Special Enrollment Period is different from a standard one because it is available to all residents of California. A normal Special Enrollment Period is available only to those who meet specific guidelines. Those who have lost their group coverage moved to a new state, lost coverage because they no longer qualify for Medi-Cal, and other similar situations are eligible to enroll in health insurance at any time under a Special Enrollment Period. This one, however, has been enacted by Covered California.

Covered California has determined that every resident of California who does not currently have a health insurance plan and health insurance coverage for the 2020 year is eligible to enroll right now. Please note that this is only available until April 30, 2020. Those who do not enroll during this period will be charged the penalty when you file your 2020 taxes in the coming year.

Feel free to reach out to us to get a healthcare plan that works for you. We can help you find out more about the different insurance options and which plan will be best for you and your family. Even more importantly, you will be able to avoid any penalties on your 2020 taxes while keeping your family protected.

For all of your health insurance inquiries and concerns, do not hesitate to contact us at Bernardini and Donovan. We are here to advise the health insurance requirements of yourself, your family, and your small business. Contact us today for expert counsel!

How Presidents Have Changed Health Care Over the Years

Health care reform

Health care reform

With ever-increasing health care costs, insurance is a popular topic for discussion among today’s political leaders. And as the 2020 presidential election quickly approaches, we can anticipate heated debate over the subject in this upcoming year. That’s because, since 1853, presidents have had a significant stake in the matter of health care and insurance. Despite the subject’s complexity, leaders of the 20th and 21st century have fought for reform, new and old ideas, and continue to strive for improving the healthcare system for the American people. So, as we look toward the near future and the potential changes to come, let’s take a look back in history. How has health care and its surrounding policies changed over the years? In this article, we’ll take a look at how past presidents have made changes to our health care and insurance systems over the years.

Meaningful ways past presidents have impacted health care: 

  1. Franklin Pierce, who became president of the United States in 1853, was the first to take action on a healthcare issue when he vetoed Congress’s “Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane.” The bill called for land and resources to be set aside for those in poverty and who were mentally ill. It also covered individuals who were blind and deaf. However, Pierce opposed the bill, arguing that the government should not be involved in social welfare issues.
  2. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th president and the first to attempt healthcare reform. He proposed the idea for a national healthcare system. However, it was during his failed 1912 reelection.
  3. The next Roosevelt to take office in 1933 also proved enthusiastic in establishing national health care, though he too was unsuccessful. Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd US president, fought to include mandatory health insurance in the Social Security Act of 1935. However, with the strong opposition of the American Medical Association, he stopped fighting for the issue for fear that the entire bill would not be passed if this issue was not dropped. Roosevelt also supported the Wagner National Health Act of 1939, which included a national health insurance mandate. This, too, failed to pass, however, without the support of conservative members of Congress.
  4. The 33rd president, Harry Truman, was in support of national health insurance. However, the Cold War, which spanned his presidency, hindered his efforts for reform. That’s because his proposition of national healthcare was equated with and publicized as soviet-style communism by its opponents.
  5. Lyndon Johnson took office in 1963 and, during his presidency, made significant changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs passed in 1965.
  6. Richard Nixon became the nation’s 36th president in 1969. His presidency extended Medicare when he signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972. This benefited those over 65 years old who were severely disabled or who suffered end-stage disease, making them eligible for Medicare.
  7. Jimmy Carter, inaugurated in 1977, supported mandatory and universal health insurance that could be issued through the existing system of private insurance. He also proposed the ultimately rejected Hospital Cost Containment Act of 1977 and the Child Health Care Assessment Program.
  8. Bill Clinton, who took office in 1993, strove to understand the reason for the nation’s rising health care costs and how to solve the growing issue. The result of his ambitions was the Health Security Act. This required employers to provide health insurance to all employees. However, it was not passed by Congress.
  9. Barack Obama. In our most recent memory is the 44th president’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This plan aims to cover all Americans with affordable health insurance.

Health care reform is a complicated subject, and making significant changes often spans decades and presidencies. The process is slow, repetitive, and takes no simple solution. So, in this upcoming presidential election season, be sure to know where you stand on this complicated subject.

If you require counsel on the subject of your own health care insurance, do not hesitate to reach out to us at Bernardini and Donovan. We are here to address your questions and concerns as you choose the plan that’s best for you! Call on us today for a healthier 2020.

New California Health Insurance Mandates

California health insurance

For the most part, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has remained intact since President Trump’s election. However, in 2019, congress repealed what Trump found most troublesome about the plan. As a part of a major tax bill, the enforcement of individual mandates was eliminated in January of this year. Prior to this, individuals who were not covered by health insurance were subjected to a tax penalty of $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of their household income, whichever was higher. This was enforced with several exemptions to address the unique circumstances of each individual.

health insurance

However, California is among the handful of states that have passed legislation to reissue this individual mandate. And in 2020, its residents will be required to obtain qualified health insurance or face a tax penalty. But this time, it will look a bit different than that wish was issued on a federal level.

The penalty for uninsured Californians will remain the same. But if it goes unpaid, other assets of yours, like your home, will be targeted. So, as a Redlands, California local, it is vital that this fee does not go overlooked.

What are your options? 

Not only to avoid this fee, but for your general well-being and good health, be sure to purchase an insurance plan. We advise that you do so for you and your dependants as we approach 2020 and the season of open enrollment. And to simplify your process, be sure to contact us at Bernardini and Donovan for expert assistance in choosing the best plan for your needs.

Amid ever-changing legislature, your health insurance decisions may simultaneously fluctuate. That’s why, for your group and individual plans, and all of your coverage inquiries, we at Bernardini and Donovan are here for you. We are prepared to meet your specific needs with a plan that’s right for your Redlands-based business. Call on us today! 

California Vaccination Rates Dropping: What You Need to Know

California Vaccination Rates Dropping: What You Need to Know

For 3,000 years, smallpox was among the world’s most feared diseases. Over 80 percent of children faced an early death with the foreboding diagnosis. But in 1796, Edward Jenner developed the first successful vaccine against smallpox. And upon his discovery, millions of lives were spared from this deadly disease. So today, we celebrate Jenner’s genius and the worldwide eradication of smallpox.

Since 1796, 14 more diseases have been held at bay or made less-prominent by the invention and wide administration of vaccines. They are now generally non-threatening to western civilization. These diseases include polio, tetanus, flu, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, rubella, Hib, measles, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, mumps, chickenpox, and diphtheria. While they still exist, each of these is far less common in the United States. Today, our society is healthier and safer thanks to modern medicine the contributions of vaccines.

smallpoxWhile vaccines are essential to the prosperity of humankind, communities of non-medical skeptics have turned against immunizations. Anti-vaccine groups strongly oppose these preventative measures, causing some regression in societal health in recent years. Just this year, we’ve seen the repercussions of this dangerous anti-vaccine sentiment. According to the California Department of Public Health, the 2018-2019 school year’s vaccine rate among California kindergarteners dropped from 95.1 percent to 94.8 percent. This drop is likely due to the 70 percent increase in medical vaccine exemptions obtained by parents this past year.

While medical exemptions were distributed, physicians are suspicious that in such a short period, so many people developed new illnesses, keeping them from receiving vaccinations. It is more likely that these exemptions were given for the patients’ personal beliefs, which under California law, is illegal.

This is frightening. While the vaccination rate among kindergarteners has dropped less than one percentage point (.9%), the concentration of unprotected people is what is concerning. According to physicians, 95 percent of people near one another must be immunized to prevent the spread of disease. This is called herd immunity. So, if a few people are not vaccinated, there is no significant threat. However, an entire community could be at higher risk for disease outbreak if it contains multiple low-vaccine-rate schools. And several California communities fit these alarming criteria.

According to data collected by the L.A. Times, about 1,500 schools in California reported a kindergarten vaccine rate under the safe limit of 95 percent. And 400 of these schools can be found in Los Angeles county, half of which are located within a half-mile of each other. So, in the case of disease outbreak, entire communities could be at serious risk.

What to do…

Be sure that you and your children are up to date on required immunizations, including the yearly flu shot. These preventative measures will not only impact your own health but that of those around you. And if you are concerned about the vaccination rate at your school, check out Shots for School to see how your’s is doing. Take care and stay up-to-date on your vaccines!

We at Bernardini and Donovan strive to promote the health of you and your family. We are here for your health insurance needs and prepared to assist your particular requirements. Do not hesitate to call on us for unmatched health insurance services.

Your Healthcare Options Part 1

Healthcare Options

What Are Your Healthcare Options?

If you are over or close to the age of 65, Medicare is something that you might be utilizing or thinking about using. If you are in that boat, then it is essential to know your open enrollment times. If you are looking to go with the Medicare Advantage Plan, open enrollment is upon us.

Recipients of Medicare have a choice between the Medicare Advantage Plan or the Medicare Supplement Plan which is like a PPO plan. The difference between the two is that in the Advantage plan you will pick a primary care physician who will direct your care. They are known as the gatekeeper. If you need to see any specialist, they will provide a referral for that. Under a PPO contract, you have the flexibility to direct your care. You do not have a primary care physician, and you have a choice of any doctor in your provider network. This option does have a higher cost in comparison to the Medicare Advantage Plan so we often see people in this area choose the Advantage Plan and it works well for them. Many doctors prefer this plan over the PPO option, as well, because there are Medicare Reporting standards that they are held to and it is easier to capture that data on this particular plan.

The Medicare Advantage plans and Part D have open enrollment starting on October 15 and ending on December 7. So if someone has original Medicare and purchases a drug plan without any other supplemental coverage that is the time that they can change their drug plan because Medicare by itself does not cover medication.

At Bernardini & Donovan, we work very closely with a majority of our clients who utilize the Medicare Advantage Plan. If that is something that you know that you want to look into, there is no one better for you talk to than us. Our years of experience allow us to help you plan and see how you can have the low cost of the Advantage Plan while having the best possible health care available to you. Please feel free to call us today to set up an appointment if you have questions.

Open Enrollment 2018

Are You Enrolled

Open Enrollment 2018

It’s 2018! We’ve made it past the holiday craziness and now find ourselves on the other side. The whole new year stretches out in front of us, open to any number of possibilities. We can have all the best intentions of what this year will hold for us. Which is such a lovely sentiment. And then reality hits. Bills need to be paid, stuff needs to get done, and life continues.


For us, reality hits when we realize all the things that we have put off to get through the holidays with some form of sanity.
As much as we cleaned before the holiday season, the house is in shambles again and needs a good cleaning. The laundry has been relegated to the back of the closet, and somehow we are all out of food. But there could be more significant things on your to-do list. Such as health insurance. Luckily for us in California, we have until the end of the month to still sign up if you are one of the many that may have put off this task. You have until January 31st to sign up and get coverage for 2018. There may be more incentive to sign up because even though the individual mandate has been taken away through our new tax bill, that doesn’t come into effect until 2019. As of right now, you still need to have health insurance in 2018, or you may need to pay a fine on your taxes. Of course, there may be more information coming in the following months, but for now, it is smart to ensure that you have health insurance and also avoid a fine.


If you need help signing up, have questions about Covered California or want to see all of your different options thoroughly explained as well as their various costs, we would love to help you. At Bernardini & Donovan, we are health insurance experts and can help you in ways that you are not going to find anywhere else.

Open Enrollment Is Up and Running

Open Enrollment up and running
Open enrollment for Covered California is up and running.

It’s had an emphatic beginning. In its few two weeks, there were over 48,000 sign-ups. That up to 9,000 then this time last year. Part of this increase could be from the significant amount of money that is being spent on advertising for Covered California. The marketing budget is said to be around $45 million. All of the money is being poured into TV commercial spots and radio advertisements. There has also been about $100,000 spent on murals being painted across the state, many of which do not have anything to do with health insurance coverage.

This comes in stark contrast to the federal budget for health care.

Last year the budget for was 100 million dollars, this year they have $10 million. The Trump administration has made it very clear that they want to get rid of Obamacare and even though their attempts on Capitol Hill have not yet led to any changes, they have slashed the advertising budget. California is one of 11 states that runs its health insurance exchange.

However, not everyone is a fan of how California is spending their massive budget.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” said Sally Pipes, the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco; “All of this money being used on murals and bus tours and TV ads, etc., it’s not going to change the number of enrollees that much. It would be better to save money and reduce taxes so that people have a lower tax burden.”  Admittedly, we would not mind seeing these funds go to help with premiums. However, that does not seem to be the course at this time.

If you are looking for a health insurance plan that provides the care you require at a price that will not overwhelm you, please speak to us at Bernardini & Donovan. We would love to help you find the plan that will fit all your needs. We are experts in health care and can help you.

Covered California Confusion

Covered California Confusion
Covered California Confusion


In the past year, we have had a lot going on with our healthcare laws.
When President Trump took office, that was one of the first issues that came to the forefront. From that point on we saw new health care bills being written, each one being scrutinized, debated, and ultimately dismissed. At this point, if any average American was asked what is going on with healthcare, I believe that the majority of them will respond with “I don’t know.”


The greatest takeaway that we have received from this healthcare upheaval is more confusion.
And that is unfortunate. Many Americans are unclear if it is worth it for them to sign up for healthcare. Especially with the news that subsidies are being cut and therefore premiums are going to skyrocket. This is what we can say. You will not know your premium until you look into it. Many times we make decisions based on what could be instead of what is happening. And that is the very reason why Bernardini & Donovan exists. We want to help each person look and find the best possible health insurance for them, their families and their business families. We don’t base our numbers off of guess-timastes. But instead, we spend time researching and looking for the best programs that fit not your only needs, but your budget as well.


Our health care in America is in an interesting spot. And we truly believe that come 2019 we will see some additional changes. But for this next year, we do need to move forward and do the best with that we currently have. If you are looking for healthcare here is what you need to know:


  • In the state of California, open enrollment goes until January 31, 2018
  • If you desire your coverage to start on Jan 1, you need to sign up before December 15th
  • Many people will wait until the last minute to sign up. Stay ahead of the curve and sign up before the holidays.

It’s That Time of Year Again

Its that time of year again

It’s That Time of Year Again

The leaves are soon going to change, and we are transitioning into a busy holiday season as well as saying goodbye to 2017. But in the midst of shopping and holiday parties, there is an additional thing to consider. From November 1st to January 31st, Covered California has open enrollment.

In the past year, we’ve watched while there have been many attempts at changing the way our healthcare system works. But for now, it looks like things are staying the same. So during this time, it will be essential to ask yourself a few questions: Am I happy with my current provider? Was there anything in the last year that was particularly difficult for me? Were there any unexpected costs associated with my healthcare? Do I get along with my doctor? Am I getting the best care for my particular needs? Were there any changes to my health this year that will cause me to need additional attention in the future? Was there any significant life changes that happened recently that will cause me to need extra coverage for dependants? Am I getting the most out of my health care coverage?

All of these questions are excellent and need to be considered with your health care. At this time you have an option or changing your health plan to one that could better fit your needs; whether those needs be that you require different types of deductibles or that you need a lower monthly premium. If you would like to change doctors, it is always good to do some research ahead of time. A quick call to a doctor’s office can let you know if they are accepting new patients and what medical insurances they accept. It would not be good to switch coverages just to find out afterward that they doctor you want will not be able to take your insurance.

As always, if you have any questions about your health insurance, we are always here to answer them. We love helping you find the best coverage for your needs.

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