Cobra Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

Learn the Essentials about Cobra Coverage

There are many common questions about cobra, benefits, laws and continuation of medical benefits. Please take a minute and review our most frequently asked questions about cobra insurance.

How do I find out about COBRA coverage and how do I elect to take it?
Employers or health plan administrators must provide an initial general notice if you are entitled to COBRA benefits. You probably received the initial notice about COBRA coverage when you were hired.

When you are no longer eligible for health coverage, your employer has to provide you with a specific notice regarding your rights to COBRA continuation benefits.

Employers must notify their plan administrators within 30 days after an employee's termination or after a reduction in hours that causes and employee to lose health benefits.

The plan administrator must provide notice to individual employees of their right to elect COBRA coverage within 14 days after the administrator has received notice from the employer.

You must respond to this notice and elect COBRA coverage by the 60th day after the written notice is sent or the day health care coverage ceased, whichever is later. Otherwise, you will lose all rights to COBRA benefits.

Spouses and dependent children covered under your health plan have an independent right to elect COBRA coverage upon your termination or reduction in hours. If, for instance, you have a family member with an illness at the time you are laid off, that person alone can elect coverage.

Am I eligible for COBRA if my company closed or went bankrupt and there is no health plan?
If there is no longer a health plan, there is no COBRA coverage available. If, however, there is another plan offered by the company, you may be covered under that plan. Union members who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that provides for a medical plan also may be entitled to continued coverage.

If I elect COBRA, how much do I pay?
When you were an active employee, your employer may have paid all or part of your group health premiums. Under COBRA, as a former employee no longer receiving benefits, you will usually pay the entire premium amount, that is, the portion of the premium that you paid as an active employee and the amount of the contribution made by your employer. In addition, there may be a 2 percent administrative fee.

While COBRA rates may seem high, you will be paying group premium rates, which are usually lower than individual rates.

Since it is likely that there will be a lapse of a month or more between the date of layoff and the time you make the COBRA election decision, you may have to pay health premiums retroactively-from the time of separation from the company. The first premium, for instance, will cover the entire time since your last day of employment with your former employer.

You should also be aware that it is your responsibility to pay for COBRA coverage even if you do not receive a monthly statement.

Although they are not required to do so, some employers may subsidize COBRA coverage.

Can I receive COBRA benefits while on FMLA leave?
The Family and Medical Leave Act, effective August 5, 1993, requires an employer to maintain coverage under any group health plan for an employee on FMLA leave under the same conditions coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued working. Coverage provided under the FMLA is not COBRA coverage, and FMLA leave is not a qualifying event under COBRA. A COBRA qualifying event may occur, however, when an employer's obligation to maintain health benefits under FMLA ceases, such as when an employee notifies an employer of his or her intent not to return to work.

Further information on FMLA is available from the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division, listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration.

I am a federal employee. Can I receive benefits under COBRA?
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.