Yeah it was that HR said not to worry about it - that I could sign up for Cobra retro-actively. They are required to tell you what coverage you have and the fact that you can get cobra to cover you. You get all sorts of crap explaining this stuff for legal reasons.
So basically two separate things - I was covered by cobra whether I signed up for it day 1 about I left my job or say on day 7 I had to go to the hospital then on day 8 I could sign up for cobra which would cover me from the time I left my previous job to until my new insurance kicked in at my new job.
Second item - I honestly don't know all the details behind the rules and such, just what I've heard on news reports from people being interviewed and trying to avoid paying the required high insurance rates. How they explained it was cost effective for them to not pay for insurance, as they were young and healthy (and just pay the fine because it was less); and if something happened in the mean time, they could then buy insurance and be covered for the medical bills. It could be that they are incorrect but it seems there were many people claiming they did this.
The pre-existing condition though is one thing that doesn't matter. If you have been diagnosed with cancer and you have no insurance - you can then go out and get health insurance - you cannot be denied and not covered for a pre-existing condition. However, I am not 100% clear on whether they would be covered for the appt prior (retro-actively) for the cancer diagnosis - people interviewed claimed this, but I am not 100% sure if that part is true or not. Yes - MA has strange rules so I wouldn't doubt it.