Health coverage if employed spouse dies?

How do older (in their early fifties) unemployed spouses get health coverage if their employed spouse, who carries the coverage, dies? Do they have to buy expensive individual coverage with whatever money is available to them? What if there isn’t enough money to do this for very long? Also, can unemployed spouses get Medicaid, even though they haven’t paid into it?

Hi riblet – when a covered subscriber dies, the spouse is eligible to get insurance under COBRA. The covered spouse’s death is considered a “qualifying event” and allows the spouse to go on the group plan, for I believe 36 months (this is longer than what regular terminated employees are allowed) even if the spouse is not employed by the company. However, if the company should terminate the health plan entirely, the spouse is out of luck (as is everyone else on COBRA). There are a number of other reasons that the spouse’s coverage can be terminated, including becoming eligible for Medicare, remarriage, becoming eligible under another insurance plan, etc.)

If I am not mistaken, people don’t pay into Medicaid, which is the government plan for persons of low income. I think you mean Medicare. I am not sure how unemployed persons whose spouse has died get onto Medicare, or what the eligibility requirements are if said spouse is under age 65. I believe the deceased spouse would have had to be eligible too, which means being at least 65 and having worked for the required number of quarters. The Social Security Administration has a good Web site: www.ssa.gov - it will tell you everything you need to know about Medicare.