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Understanding COBRA Health Benefits (Article)

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

Accessing COBRA Health Benefits

What is COBRA?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA) benefits employees and other beneficiaries of employment-related group health care plans.  

Group Coverage 

COBRA allows employees and other beneficiaries to choose to continue health insurance at group plan rates when they would ordinarily no longer be eligible for group coverage. COBRA applies to group health plans of employers with 20 or more employees on the typical work day in the previous year.

A qualified beneficiary can elect to continue their employment-related group health plan even if they are covered under another health plan. 

Qualifying Events

COBRA applies after certain "qualifying events" such as job loss or reduction of hours. The employer has to notify the plan administrator of the qualifying event. The plan administrator must then notify the employee or other beneficiary of their right to choose to continue coverage.

Employee or Other Beneficiary Has Only 60 Days to Elect COBRA

The employee or other beneficiary has 60 days from the qualifying event to make an election.

Continuing Coverage for 18 Months 

Generally, coverage must continue only for 18 months. The statute allows for longer coverage in certain circumstances.

More Information About COBRA

Changing Jobs and Job Loss | U.S. Department of Labor

Last Review and Update: Sep 22, 2020