The following information is from the United States Department of Labor’s web site. Since this COBRA article (or booklet, as the article refers to it) from dol.gov has an abundance of information, we will break the article up into sections over the next several weeks. We hope that you find the information valuable.
An Employee’s Guide to Health Benefits Under COBRA – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
Note: This publication contains information about the COBRA premium reduction provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). This publication has not been updated for recent amendments made to ARRA. For updated information on ARRA and its amendments, please see the COBRA Premium Reduction Fact Sheet.
Alternatives to COBRA Continuation Coverage
If you become entitled to elect COBRA continuation coverage when you otherwise would lose group health coverage under a group health plan, you should consider all options you may have to get other health coverage before you make your decision. One option may be “special enrollment” into other group health coverage.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), if you or your dependents are losing eligibility for group health coverage, including eligibility for continuation coverage, you may have a right to special enroll (enroll without waiting until the next open season for enrollment) in other group health coverage. For example, an employee losing eligibility for group health coverage may be able to special enroll in a spouse’s plan. A dependent losing eligibility for group health coverage may be able to enroll in a different parent’s group health plan. To have a special enrollment opportunity, you or your dependent must have had other health coverage when you previously declined coverage in the plan in which you now want to enroll. To special enroll, you or your dependent must request special enrollment within 30 days of the loss of other coverage.
If you or your dependent chooses to elect COBRA continuation coverage instead of special enrollment, you will have another opportunity to request special enrollment once you have exhausted your continuation coverage. In order to exhaust COBRA continuation coverage, you or your dependent must receive the maximum period of continuation coverage available without early termination. You must request special enrollment within 30 days of the loss of continuation coverage.
Another option may be to buy an individual health insurance policy. HIPAA gives individuals who are losing group health coverage and who have at least 18 months of creditable coverage without a break in coverage of 63 days or more the right to buy individual health insurance coverage that does not impose a preexisting condition exclusion period. For this purpose, most health coverage, including COBRA continuation coverage, is creditable coverage. These special rights may not be available to you if you do not elect and receive continuation coverage. For more information on your right to buy individual health insurance coverage, contact your state department of insurance.
In addition, individuals in a family may be eligible for health insurance coverage through various state programs. For more information, contact your state department of insurance.