The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows individuals to continue their group health plan coverage in certain situations. Specifically, COBRA requires group health plans to offer continuation coverage to covered employees and dependents when coverage would otherwise be lost due to certain specific events.

These events include the death of a covered employee, termination or a reduction in the hours of a covered employee’s employment, divorce of a covered employee and spouse, and a child’s loss of dependent status under the plan.

COBRA sets rules for how and when continuation coverage must be offered and provided, how employees and their families may elect continuation coverage and when continuation coverage may be terminated.

Employers may require individuals to pay for COBRA coverage. Group health coverage for COBRA participants is usually more expensive than coverage for active employees, since many employers pay a part of the premium for active employees.

Links and Resources

Cobra Basics 

  • COBRA allows certain employees, spouses and dependents to temporarily continue their health coverage at group rates.
  • COBRA coverage must be the same as the coverage that is available to similarly situated active employees who are not receiving COBRA benefits.

Compliance Tips

Avoid common compliance mistakes by:

  • Determining if COBRA applies to your health plan;
  • Knowing which events trigger the requirement to offer COBRA coverage;
  • Providing the required COBRA notices on a timely basis; and
  • Establishing payment procedures for COBRA premiums

When Does COBRA Apply?

Most private-sector employers that maintain group health plans for their employees must comply with COBRA’s continuation coverage requirements. This includes, for example, corporations, partnerships and tax-exempt organizations. However, COBRA does not apply to group health plans maintained by small employers. A “small employer” means an employer that had fewer than 20 employees on typical business days during the preceding calendar year.

COBRA also applies to plans sponsored by state and local governments. It does not apply, however, to plans sponsored by the federal Government or by churches and certain church-related organizations.

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