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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Health Benefits Under the COBRA


The election period is the time frame during which each qualified beneficiary may choose whether to continue health care coverage under an employer's group health plan. Qualified beneficiaries have a 60-day period to elect whether to continue coverage. This period is measured from the later of the coverage loss date or the date the notice to elect COBRA coverage is sent. COBRA coverage is retroactive if elected and paid for by the qualified beneficiary.

A covered employee or the covered employee's spouse may elect COBRA coverage on behalf of any other qualified beneficiary. Each qualified beneficiary, however, may independently elect COBRA coverage. A parent or legal guardian may elect on behalf of a minor child.

A waiver of coverage may be revoked by or on behalf of a qualified beneficiary before the end of the election period. A beneficiary may then reinstate coverage. Then, the plan need only provide continuation coverage beginning on the date the waiver is revoked.

How COBRA Coverage Works

Example 1:

John Q. participates in the group health plan maintained by the ABC Co. John is fired for a reason other than gross misconduct and his health coverage is terminated. John may elect and pay for a maximum of 18 months of coverage by the employer's group health plan at the group rate. (See Paying for "COBRA Coverage")

Example 2:

Day laborer David P. has health coverage through his wife's plan sponsored by the XYZ Co. David loses his health coverage when he and his wife become divorced. David may purchase health coverage with the plan of his former wife's employer. Since in this case divorce is the qualifying event under COBRA, David is entitled to a maximum of 36 months of COBRA coverage.

Example 3:

RST, Inc. is a small business which maintained an insured group health plan for its 10 employees in 1987 and 1988. Mary H., a secretary with six years of service, leaves in June 1988 to take a position with a competing firm which has no health plan. She is not entitled to COBRA coverage with the plan of RST, Inc. since the firm had fewer than 20 employees in 1987 and is not subject to COBRA requirements.

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