More COBRA Questions

By | Nov 11, 2009

Since my previous post on COBRA in my So You’ve Been Laid Off series, I’ve had a few more questions concerning COBRA. I figured I’d just answer them all in one post and save us all some time.

Can I Get COBRA if I’ve Been Fired?

This is a question I hear a lot.  And the answer is, “It depends.”  According to COBRA law, the terminated employee has a right to coverage under COBRA as long as the termination wasn’t for “gross misconduct”.  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t define “gross misconduct”.  The Employee Benefits Legal Blog has a very good post on this very important topic.  If you have doubts as to whether your conduct rises to “gross misconduct”, give it a read.

Either way, though, your former employer must notify you of your COBRA eligibility.  If they are claiming you are not eligible due to gross misconduct, they must inform you of that as well.

What Happens if My Company Cancels My Plan?

If your company has  more than 20 employees, they are legally obligated to offer you coverage under COBRA.  The only exception, besides the aforementioned gross misconduct, is if they cancel all group coverage for their employees.  So, if they cancel your particular plan, but are still offering a different plan to employees, you have a right to buy coverage under that plan.  Only if they cancel all group insurance coverage do you lose your coverage under COBRA.

What If I Don’t Pay Within 45 Days?

While employers are required to give a 30 day grace period for subsequent COBRA payments due, the 45 day deadline after election of benefits is a hard deadline.  There is no grace period.  So if you don’t pay your first premium, retroactive to the beginning of COBRA eligibility, within 45 days of mailing your election form, then you will lose all rights to COBRA coverage.

Employers are not required to send you notices of payments due for COBRA payments, so be sure to keep track of your due dates.

Any Other Questions?

Anyone else out there have questions about COBRA coverage?  Leave your questions in the comments, and I’ll try to answer them.  What I don’t know, I can usually find an answer for fairly quickly.

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2 Comments so far
  1. Christine Ding (1 comments) January 23, 2010 11:23 pm

    I am an employee on an approved two year personal leave. According to the company policy, I can extend my coverage thru the company pay for the initial 6 months (I pay all the premium, the same rate as cobra), and then for the remaining 18 months, I will be covered by cobra. I paid the initial 6 months already, and now it should be transferred to cobra. However, it seems my info is lost here.

    I am afraid if the company stops providing me with any benefits, what can I do? Will I still be eligible for cobra? If I tell them I will not return to work, would that trigger my cobra coverage?

  2. Jodith (189 comments) January 31, 2010 1:51 pm

    If your company’s policy is that you pay your own premiums for 6 months and then transfer to COBRA, then that is what should happen. Have you talked to the person at your company that handles benefits? You should receive your COBRA letter from your employer within 44 days of your health insurance ending. If you don’t, they are in violation of the COBRA laws. If they haven’t contacted you, then you should contact them, since you could lose all access to COBRA if you aren’t signed up within the time limit. All they have to do to meet guidelines is to mail the COBRA notification letter by first class mail to your last known address. If the letter is lost in the mail or you have moved, they are not responsible. So be sure and call them and find out what’s happening.

    Good luck.

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