Whether you’re young or old, married or single, sick or healthy, rich or poor, health insurance affects all of us in some way or another. Some pay for their own insurance plans, while others are fortunate to have health insurance through their employers. But what happens if you leave your job – will you lose your insurance, too? Because of a law passed in 1986, you may be able to continue your coverage through COBRA insurance. Read on to learn how COBRA insurance works.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
Passed in 1985, COBRA is a federal law that allows employees of certain companies to continue their health insurance with the same benefits even after they stop working for their employer. But how does COBRA Insurance work? To qualify for coverage, there are three conditions that must be met:
Each of these conditions are described in more detail below.
Not all employer-sponsored health plans are required to provide COBRA continuation coverage. COBRA only covers health plans sponsored by employers who had at least 20 employees on more than 50 percent of their typical business days in the previous calendar year. Both full- and part-time employees are counted, though each part-time employee is counted as a fraction of a full-time employee. There are also some state laws that apply coverage to companies with fewer than 20 employees.
Under COBRA, a qualifying event is one that causes you to lose your health coverage, such as a reduction in work hours or the loss of your job for reasons other than gross misconduct. In addition, the following are qualifying events for spouses and dependent children:
Another qualifying event for dependent children occurs when they lose coverage because they’ve reached the maximum age required by law (currently age 26).
Employees and their spouses, former spouses, and dependent children are considered qualified beneficiaries for COBRA insurance if they were covered by the employer’s group health plan the day before a qualifying event occurred, and the plan is still in effect for active employees. Additionally, retired employees and their spouses and dependent children may be considered qualified beneficiaries if the employer went bankrupt. Lastly, if a child is born or adopted during a period of COBRA coverage, he or she is automatically eligible for COBRA coverage.
How COBRA Insurance Works: The Timeline
Qualified beneficiaries are not enrolled in COBRA insurance automatically. The COBRA process follows a timeline that requires each of the parties to take action within a certain timeframe. The timeline generally includes the following deadlines:
How Does COBRA Insurance Work? Who Pays the Bill?
In most cases, you will be paying your insurance premiums. Unfortunately, this is usually more expensive under COBRA because your employer probably covered part of the premium while you were employed. The exact amount will vary, but it’s often cheaper than purchasing individual health insurance. You should compare the costs with other options, such as your spouse’s insurance, Medicaid, the Health Insurance Marketplace, or the military.
Get Help with the COBRA Process
Losing your health insurance can be extremely stressful, and there are many options and variables to consider when deciding how to move forward. An experienced, local health insurance attorney can guide you through these difficult decisions and provide more detailed answers to your questions regarding how COBRA insurance works.