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Global Work Glossary

Lost in a maze of global employment jargon? Find your way out with our handy collection of work and HR terminology

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COBRA

What are COBRA Benefits?

COBRA, which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a federal law that allows employees and their families to retain health insurance coverage under their employer’s group plan for limited periods following certain qualifying events such as job loss, reduction in work hours, death, divorce, or another loss of eligibility.

Eligibility and Qualifying Events

Eligibility for COBRA benefits requires that the individual was covered by an employer’s health insurance plan at the time of the qualifying event. Qualifying events for employees include termination of employment for any reason other than gross misconduct or a reduction in the number of hours of employment. For spouses and dependent children, qualifying events also include the covered employee’s death, divorce or legal separation, and eligibility for Medicare.

Coverage and Duration

COBRA coverage is identical to the coverage previously offered by the employer’s plan, allowing beneficiaries to maintain the same benefits, choices, and services. The duration of COBRA coverage can vary based on the nature of the qualifying event, typically ranging from 18 to 36 months. The exact period of coverage can be extended in certain circumstances, such as a disability.

Costs and Payment

One of the major considerations with COBRA benefits is the cost. COBRA beneficiaries must pay the full premium amount, which includes the share previously covered by the employer plus a 2% administrative fee. This can make COBRA coverage quite expensive compared to employer-subsidized health insurance; however, it provides an essential bridge to health insurance for individuals transitioning between jobs or facing other life changes.

Understanding COBRA benefits is crucial for employees and employers to manage health insurance coverage during transitions and ensure compliance with federal regulations. It offers a temporary yet vital safety net for healthcare continuity in changing circumstances.

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