Reader Question – What about seasonal employees?

A reader writes:

Currently I usually work 4-7 months per year in Antarctica for an American company where I get health insurance with my job.  Then the other 5-8 months of the year I don’t work.  Do you have any idea how my health insurance would be affected in the off season (as I usually choose not to take another job during that time)?

Would I be required to carry health insurance in my off season?  Would I be required to take my Cobra (which currently is way too expensive and is pretty much junk insurance) – and take it without subsidies (as I’m sure my annual salary would qualify me for subsidies in the exchange).  Or would I be given the OPTION of choosing Cobra or choosing a plan within the exchange – with subsidies?  Or due to the short time of unemployment, would I have the option of going without insurance?  How do these health care plans intend to handle people who only work seasonally?

Excellent question.  Look, you will have to have insurance.  That’s the meaning of the mandate.  It will occur one of two ways.  If your employer gives you insurance, they will give it to you for the whole year likely.  However, in your situation, I think that’s not the way it will probably happen.

The second (and more likely) option is that you will get your insurance through the exchange.  They will likely contribute towards it during the months you are employed, and then you will be responsible for it when you are not.

COBRA is necessary right now when people can’t get decent insurance without their jobs.  You won’t want it (or need it) if reform passes.

You’re probably going to be best off with the plans in the exchange with subsidies.

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