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Is FMLA A Qualifying Event For COBRA Coverage?

My husband is a full time employee for a company, but due to a surgery has been placed on FMLA. His employer is now telling him that he will be placed on the COBRA plan. He was told he would be placed on COBRA if he cannot return to work before his FMLA time is up. Can they do this to us?

The COBRA law states that a leave taken under FMLA is not a COBRA qualifying event, even when the employee’s hours are reduced. When an employee is on an FMLA leave, they are entitled to the same health benefits as before the leave. If they don’t return to work after FMLA, then they would qualify for COBRA.

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What Exactly Is COBRA?

COBRA is a federal regulation that mandates businesses with 20 or more employees to provide the same group health care coverage after you have left your employment, either willingly or involuntarily, or had your work hours decreased. Because COBRA is just the same coverage you had with your former employer, you must contact the COBRA Administrator at your previous workplace to start or discontinue coverage. The COBRA Administrator is typically located in the HR department, however the employer that sponsored the insurance may hire a third-party administrator.

How Is The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Different From COBRA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, otherwise known as FMLA, is a United States labor law that requires eligible companies to provide qualifying medical and family leave to employees.

Time Allowances For FMLA

Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement of a child for adoption or foster care with the employee and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • a serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • an emergency or 26 work weeks of absence in a single 12-month period to care for a family member

Twenty-six workweeks lof leave during a single 12-month period to provide care to a covered military servicemember suffering from a serious injury or sickness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s husband, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).


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