COBRA Coverage

If you are losing your work-based coverage because you are leaving your job, you may have the option of keeping the coverage through a program called COBRA.

COBRA is a federal law that may let you and your family keep your employee health insurance for a limited time after your employment ends or after you would otherwise lose coverage. This is called “continuation coverage.”
Since your employer doesn’t pay for COBRA coverage, you’ll probably pay for the whole cost of the monthly premium.

Here’s what you need to know about COBRA coverage:

  • In general, COBRA coverage requirements apply only to employers with 20 or more employees. (Many states have laws similar to COBRA that apply to employers with fewer than 20 employees. Contact your State Department of Insurance to see if “state continuation coverage” applies to you.)
  • If your family was covered under your employer coverage, they may also qualify for COBRA coverage.
  • In most situations, you should get a notice from your employer’s benefits administrator or the health plan telling you that your coverage is ending and offering you the right to take COBRA coverage.
  • In most cases, you have 60 days after your last day of coverage to sign up for COBRA.
  • COBRA coverage usually lasts for 18 months but could last up to 36 months.

For more information about COBRA coverage:

  • Call your employer’s benefits administrator for questions about your specific COBRA coverage options.
  • If your health plan coverage was from a private employer (not a government employer), you can visit the Department of Labor’s website, or call 1-866-444-3272.
  • If your health plan coverage was from a state or local government employer, you can call 1-877-267-2323, extension 61565.
  • If your coverage was through employment with the federal government, you can visit the Office of Personnel Management’s website.

Conversion Coverage and HIPAA-Eligible Coverage

When you’re leaving job-based coverage, you might be able to convert your job-based health insurance plan to an individual policy. This is called conversion coverage, and isn’t the same as continuation coverage (COBRA), in which you keep your job-based coverage. If you have a choice, you should consider your options carefully.

You might also have special rights to buy individual coverage as a “HIPAA eligible individual.”

Contact your State Department of Insurance to see if these coverage options are available to you.