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How U.S. job termination laws protect employee healthcare rights

Whether it's a wrongful or at-will termination, the U.S. Department of Labor has given certain rights to its employee-citizens to address financial challenges in the event of job loss. These rights include the right to continued healthcare coverage and in some cases the right to unemployment compensation.

When a Michigan employee loses a job, the family might also lose healthcare benefits provided by the employee's insurance coverage. Upon termination, the family can choose to continue group healthcare benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or COBRA. However, this act only allows health insurance coverage continuation for a limited period of time.

COBRA health insurance plans are offered to all employees, their spouses and dependent children who were covered during employment. COBRA coverage is more expensive than group healthcare plans used by active employees. Participants and beneficiaries in group healthcare plans are also provided rights and protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA. This act limits exclusion for existing conditions and discrimination against employees and dependents due to present health status.

HIPAA also provides the right to purchase new health insurance if the employee is not covered under a group healthcare plan or has exhausted COBRA or other unemployment continuation coverage. Under employment law, employees should be given an appropriate notice period by their employers. Workers that are separated from employment due to reorganization or layoffs are eligible to seek unemployment benefits. An employee who meets the requirement for unemployment benefits is provided with temporary financial assistance.

Any Michigan employee who has been separated from employment due to wrongful termination or at-will termination may consult with an experienced attorney to understand federal and state rights and benefits available to avoid financial difficulties.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Termination," Accessed on Apr. 9, 2015

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