HR Support on COBRA Continuation of Employee Health Coverage

Editor's Note: Complex COBRA requirements still result in frequent errors.

Tracy MorleyOverview: 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:

  • Failure to satisfy the COBRA general notice requirements;
  • Not having current language in COBRA notices; and
  • Lack of appropriate documentation that the required notices have been provided.

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

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