Recent estimates suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has cost more than 9 million Americans employer-provided health insurance, with projections indicating that those numbers will continue to rise. These individuals are generally granted the option to elect continued health coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
Under COBRA an individual who was covered by a group health plan on the day before the occurrence of a qualifying event (such as a termination of employment or a reduction in hours that causes loss of coverage under the plan) may be able to elect COBRA continuation coverage upon that qualifying event. Group health plans must provide covered employees and their families with certain notices explaining their COBRA rights. A group health plan must provide each covered employee with a written notice of COBRA rights at the time of commencement of coverage under the plan. A group health plan must also provide qualified beneficiaries with a notice that describes their rights to COBRA continuation coverage and how to make an election.
DOL has provided model notices that plans may use to satisfy the requirement to provide the general notice and election notice under COBRA. DOL is now issuing updated versions of the model general notice and the model election notice to ensure that qualified beneficiaries better understand the interactions between Medicare and COBRA.
DOL’s newest model notices can be found on their website in modifiable form at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/cobra. Completing these forms constitutes compliance notice with the content requirements of COBRA.
In Congress, Democrats introduced legislation in April to alleviate the financial burden on COBRA participants. Entitled the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, the proposal would fully fund the cost of COBRA. To date, this legislation has not seen any forward momentum. NAIFA continues to monitor and work with legislators to ensure solutions that benefit all Americans are considered when addressing the COVID-19 crisis.