Overview: Group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees are required to comply with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). In general, COBRA provides continuation of health care coverage for employees and their beneficiaries who would otherwise lose coverage due to certain qualifying events.
Group health plans are required to provide workers and their families with a notice of their COBRA rights and are also required to have procedures in place for how COBRA coverage is offered, how coverage can be elected and how coverage can be terminated. Even though COBRA has been around for over 25 years, its confusing and complex requirements still result in frequent errors.
Some of the more common errors include:
Trends: In light of the US Supreme Court's decision striking down section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), employers must extend COBRA coverage to an employee's same-sex spouse if the couple lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. The number of states that recognize same-sex marriage is continuing to grow, with rulings addressing the legality of same-sex marriage pending in several states.
Author: Tracy Morley, SPHR, Legal Editor
This new chart summarizes each state's health care continuation coverage requirements (often referred to as "mini-COBRA" laws).
This chart helps employers understand each state's health care continuation coverage requirements. These so-called "mini-COBRA" laws cover smaller employers or may otherwise provide greater rights than the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
As mandated by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) some employers are required to provide this notice to terminated employees.
As mandated by the State of New Jersey, Department of Banking and Insurance, New Jersey employers with covered, eligible employees must distribute a copy of the New Jersey Continuation Coverage Rules form.
The US Department of Labor announced proposed updates to model notices under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.
As mandated by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, all Maryland employers must post the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Poster.
Recent guidance issued by the US Department of Labor states same-sex spouses are now eligible for the same benefits and protections as opposite-sex spouses under employee benefit plans and programs covered under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Two new letters and a Quick Reference Chart have been developed to help employers comply with the complex requirements of COBRA.
Group health plans must offer continuation coverage under COBRA to qualified beneficiaries after a qualifying event has occurred. This chart provides a summary of qualifying events, qualified beneficiaries and the maximum periods of COBRA continuation coverage.
An employer may use this letter to notify COBRA participants that COBRA coverage will terminate due to expiration of the COBRA continuation coverage period.
HR Guidance on complying with COBRA laws and regulations.