COBRA: A Mandated Employee Benefit
Updated: Dec 12, 2018
While employers largely have discretion to choose which benefits to offer their employees, some benefits are also regulated by law. One benefit required by federal law to provide is COBRA (Consolidated Omnibur Budget Reconciliation Act).
COBRA gives certain employees, spouses, former spouses, children, and retirees who lose their health benefits the option to continue health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time at group rates. Eligibility is subject to certain circumstances such as
voluntary vs. involuntary job loss,
reduction in the hours worked,
transition between jobs,
other life events.
Typically, COBRA coverage lasts for 18 months although, in some cases, it can extend even longer. Group plans which cover 20 or more employees are required to provide COBRA benefits. In North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota, there are mini-COBRA like statutes that apply to smaller companies, usually those with 2-19 workers. Employers do not have to pay for former employee's health insurance premium under COBRA. The employee is responsible for that monthly premium at up to 102% of the cost of the plan.
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