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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Health Benefits Under the COBRA

Role of the Federal Government

Continuation coverage laws are administered by several agencies. The Departments of Labor and Treasury have jurisdiction over private sector health plans. The United States Public Health Service administers the continuation coverage law as it affects public sector health plans.

The Labor Department's interpretative and regulatory responsibility is limited to the disclosure and notification requirements. If you need further information on your election or notification rights with a private sector plan, write to the nearest office of the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (See http://www2.dol.gov/dol/pwba/public/contacts/folist.htm ) or:

U.S. Department of Labor
Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration
Division of Technical Assistance and Inquiries
Room N-5619
200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210

The Internal Revenue Service, which is in the Department of the Treasury, is responsible for publishing regulations on COBRA provisions relating to eligibility and premiums. Both Labor and Treasury share jurisdiction for enforcement.

The U.S. Public Health Service, located in the Department of Health and Human Services, has published Title XXII of the Public Health Service Act entitled "Requirements for Certain Group Health Plans for Certain State and Local Employees." Information about COBRA provisions concerning public sector employees is available from the:

U.S. Public Health Service
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health
Grants Policy Branch (COBRA)
5600 Fishers Lane
(Room 17A-45)
Rockville, Maryland 20857

Federal employees are covered by a law similar to COBRA. Those employees should contact the personnel office serving their agency for more information on temporary extensions of health benefits.

Conclusion

Rising medical costs have transformed health benefits from a privilege to a household necessity for most Americans. COBRA creates an opportunity for persons to retain this important benefit.

Workers need to be aware of changes in health care laws to preserve their benefit rights. A good starting point is reading your plan booklet. Most of the specific rules on COBRA benefits can be found there or with the person who manages your health benefits plan.

Be sure to periodically contact the health plan to find out about any changes in the type or level of benefits offered by the plan.

The Department of Labor maintains this article to enhance public access to the Department's information. This is a service that is continually under development. While we try to keep the information timely and accurate, we make no guarantees. We will make an effort to correct errors brought to our attention.

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