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Can My Dependents Continue COBRA When I Get Medicare?

Can my wife choose COBRA insurance by herself even though I don’t need it because I have Medicare? Is it possible for me to enroll in COBRA insurance even though I already have Medicare coverage?

Understanding the interaction between COBRA continuation coverage and Medicare involves navigating specific rules and exceptions. COBRA allows individuals and their dependents to continue their company-sponsored health insurance under certain circumstances after losing coverage, typically due to retirement or job loss. Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily for people aged 65 and over. Here’s a detailed look at how these two can work for you and your wife.

Can My Wife Take COBRA Coverage Without Me?

  1. Dependent COBRA Continuation: Yes, your wife can elect COBRA continuation coverage for herself even if you do not. When you become entitled to Medicare and decide to discontinue your employer-sponsored health plan, your dependents can still be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage. This allows them to maintain health insurance even if the primary policyholder’s coverage situation changes.
  2. Qualifying Events: The qualifying event for your wife’s COBRA eligibility is your retirement. This creates a loss of coverage for her, which triggers her right to elect COBRA continuation coverage independently of your insurance decisions.

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Can I Take COBRA Coverage With Medicare I Already Have?

  1. COBRA with Medicare: Generally, if you are already covered by Medicare before you elect COBRA, you can still choose COBRA coverage. However, COBRA may act as secondary insurance to Medicare. It’s important to consider the benefits and costs of maintaining COBRA in addition to Medicare, as COBRA can be expensive and might not provide significant additional coverage beyond what Medicare offers.
  2. Coordination of Benefits: When you have both Medicare and COBRA, Medicare typically pays first for your healthcare bills, and COBRA may cover some remaining costs that Medicare does not fully pay. However, this coordination can vary, so it’s essential to understand your specific needs and how both coverages can work together.

Additional Considerations

Enrollment Timing: If you’re considering COBRA as a supplement to Medicare, be aware of the timing. Generally, once you are entitled to Medicare, you cannot delay Medicare enrollment to choose COBRA instead without facing possible late enrollment penalties for Medicare Part B.

Employer Size: The rules around COBRA and Medicare also depend on the size of the employer. For small employers with fewer than 20 employees, Medicare is the primary payer, and COBRA can be secondary. For larger employers, the specifics can vary.

It’s Your Choice

For your situation, your wife should be able to elect COBRA coverage independently, allowing her to maintain health insurance coverage until she is also eligible for Medicare. You can maintain COBRA alongside Medicare, but consider the costs and benefits. Each individual’s circumstances can affect the optimal choice, so reviewing your specific situation with a benefits coordinator or health insurance advisor is advisable to make the most informed decision.

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