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
Enhanced with additional details and resources.
Updated to reflect IRS guidance issued on the expanded determination letter program.
Updated to include a change to the definition of employer under the the Arizona health care continuation coverage law, effective August 27, 2019.
Updated to include a change to the definition of small employer under the continuation coverage law, effective August 27, 2019.
Updated to reflect amendments to the continuation coverage and conversion law addressing preexisting conditions and other limitations, effective June 14, 2019.
Updated to include a provision regarding the requirement to offer continuation coverage, effective May 14, 2019.
Updated to reflect proposed regulations that would update and revise the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime exemption requirements.
HR Guidance on complying with COBRA laws and regulations.