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COBRA Insurance Information Resource

Learn about your temporary health insurance options while between jobs and medical plans.

How To Apply For COBRA
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What Is COBRA Health Insurance?

COBRA is a federal law. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or COBRA is a law that gives workers and their families the right to keep their employer’s group health plan after that insurance would end due to job loss or changes in the immediate family.

The law requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the previous year provide employees and their families with the option of a temporary extension of health coverage (referred to as continuation coverage) due to a qualifying event where coverage under the plan would otherwise end.

How Does COBRA Work?

Is COBRA Right For You?

If you need treatment for pre-existing conditions, visit the doctor often or are pregnant, continuing on your most recent employer health plan, also known as COBRA insurance, maybe the best option. It’s the same plan as your most recent health insurance.

Those that are in good health or need coverage for a short amount of time will want to look at short-term medical insurance. These types of plans provide month-to-month coverage until your next work health insurance begins.

When Should You Choose COBRA or An Alternative?

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Check Your COBRA Eligibility

First off, employers with 20 or more workers must comply with the COBRA continuation law. Businesses are required to make available their group health plan coverage to workers and their families for a short period of time, should that policy end. You also need to have had an active health insurance policy with an employer for 1 day to be eligible.

If you are a dependent on a work health insurance plan, you may qualify for continued coverage if the policyholder stops the plan.

COBRA Eligibility

COBRA Benefits

Your federal COBRA benefits allow you to continue using your most recent health insurance after the employer stops subsidizing a portion of it.

The company that makes this plan available is responsible for enrollment, premium payments, the status of coverage and cancellations.

Are you looking for your plan administrator? Here’s a list of the most common COBRA administrators that companies may use. If you still are unsure, contact the Human Resources Department of the employer who sponsored your most recent health insurance. They will be able to point you in the right direction.

Find Your Plan Administrator

How Much Is It?

The average COBRA premium payment is $400 – $700/month per person. The cost of continuing workplace health benefits is based on what you were paying by payroll deduction and the amount the employer was subsidizing as an employee benefit.

Applying For COBRA

When your job health insurance stops, you are allowed a special open enrollment period to select new health insurance. One option is COBRA.

The COBRA insurance rules require that after you leave your job or your work insurance ends, the employer has 45 days to notify you of your option of electing COBRA continuation to maintain your medical coverage.

You have 60 days to respond to the election notice and apply for COBRA to continue the same medical policy you are or were on.

COBRA Coverage Is Retroactive? Yes it is.

If a medical issue happens between now and the start of your COBRA insurance coverage, keep your hospital and clinic receipts and statements. The coverage is retroactive to the date that you lost coverage. 

You will be reimbursed for those medical expenses, once you pay your COBRA premium.

How Long Does COBRA Last?

You may stay on COBRA insurance for 18 months or 36 months depending on the qualifying event.

The qualifying events determines the length of health insurance continuation. Workers may use COBRA for 18 months, while family members losing insurance may stay on the employer plan for 36 months.

Canceling A COBRA Plan

To cancel existing COBRA benefits, the primary beneficiary must notify the plan administrator in writing that they wish to terminate the plan.

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Temporary Health Plans Are An Alternative

One way to reduce the cost of your health insurance is to use a temporary health plan, like Short Term Medical or Accident Only insurance.

This type of insurance can bridge a gap (or “get by”) until your next major medical plan begins. This type of health insurance is a popular option and available in most states.

These plans are available on private health insurance marketplaces. Temporary plans do not provide preexisting condition coverage.

Mini-COBRA is Available In Some States

Depending on the state you live in, some businesses with 19 or fewer employees are required to offer a continuation of health insurance. These laws are similar to federal government’s COBRA, but oftentimes have different deadlines for employer election notices and the length of time a former workers must choose.

Find out which states have Mini-COBRA coverage continuation laws and see if it applies to your situation.

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