COBRA Insurance: Continue Your Health Insurance After Your Employment Ends
What is COBRA?
Simply put, COBRA allows for the continuation of your health insurance when you leave a job.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or “COBRA” provides employees and their families who’ve lost their health benefits with the right to elect to keep their group health benefits provided by their former employer for a limited amount of time. Certain conditions must be met, like the employee must experience a voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, or another life event.
However, those who qualify may need to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102% of the cost of the plan. In many instances, those who chose COBRA pay higher premiums than they might under a traditional individual health plan because the employee must pay the full price for the COBRA health insurance coverage (including the employer’s portion).
How Does COBRA Work?
COBRA mandates that an employer’s group health plan for companies with 20 or more employees offer employees and their families the opportunity for a temporary extension of health coverage (known as “continuation coverage”) in certain circumstances where coverage under the plan would otherwise cease.
COBRA is a temporary extension or “stop-gap” until an individual can find other health insurance coverage.
How Does Florida’s COBRA Work?
Florida COBRA insurance is much the same as other states. If a Floridian was a full-time or part-time employee, he or she should be eligible to receive Florida COBRA healthcare coverage.
It’s important to note that eligibility is dependent on other criteria, which are discussed below.
For an employee to be considered a “qualifying beneficiary,” his or her employer’s group health plan must previously have covered him or her (or their spouse/partner or dependent child) before the employment ended.
In addition, the employee must also have a “qualifying event” that would have been the reason that they lost health insurance coverage.
To be eligible for COBRA coverage, you had to have been enrolled in your employer’s health plan when you worked, and the health plan must continue to be in effect for active employees. To be able to elect COBRA continuation coverage, these requirements must be met:
- The employee’s group health plan must be covered by COBRA;
- A qualifying event must have occurred; and
- The employee must be a qualified beneficiary for that event.
COBRA continuation coverage is available when a qualifying event occurs that would—but for COBRA coverage—make a person lose his or her health care coverage.
To elect COBRA insurance in Florida, a person must have one of these happen:
- The employee quits their job;
- The employee is fired unless it was due to “gross misconduct;”
- The employee had their hours decreased, causing them to no longer be eligible for their employer’s health plan because they’re no longer a full-time employee; or
- The employee retires.
COBRA allows employees to continue their healthcare coverage for at least 18 months. Their spouses and children may receive coverage for up to three years.
Dependents are permitted to continue COBRA coverage for any of the following reasons:
- The covered spouse or parent dies;
- The individual gets divorced or legally separated from the covered spouse;
- The covered employee’s child turns 25 and is no longer eligible to be on his or her parent’s plan; or
- The covered employee enrolls in Medicare.
What Do I Do to Get COBRA Insurance If I Quit My Job?
In most cases, your plan administrator must be notified within 14 days of your employment ending. The plan administrator then has 30 days to send you the information on how to elect COBRA insurance. If you do not receive the COBRA election paperwork within this time frame, Federal law says you may be entitled to damages of up to $110 per day, plus attorney’s fees and costs.
Once the notice documents are sent, you have 60 days to determine if you want to continue with the coverage.
When you decide you want to elect COBRA insurance, you must inform the plan administrator. As the former employee, you must pay the full cost of the health insurance premiums, plus up to a 2% administrative fee. After all the paperwork is filled out, the first premium payment is due within 45 days of the election date.
Note that it’s not necessary for the entire family to get COBRA insurance, and you can change your mind about your decision within the 60-day election period.
You can cancel COBRA insurance coverage at any time. Former employees and their dependents don’t have to keep the coverage for the full 18 months.
Florida has a statute that mirrors the federal COBRA statute but applies to employers with fewer than 20 employees who aren’t covered by federal requirements.
The health insurance continuation requirements under Florida law are like the federal requirements, so you have 18 months for employees and dependents when you’re terminated from employment or have your hours reduced. However, in Florida, it’s only 18—not 36— months for spouses and dependents after a divorce, the death of the employee, a child turns 18, or the employee is entitled to enroll in Medicare.
But continuation of coverage can be extended for an additional 11 months at a higher premium if the person is disabled at the time of the event initially triggering COBRA insurance continuation rights.
An experienced employment law attorney may be able to help you obtain compensation for your treatment and injuries from your former employer’s mistakes with your COBRA coverage and the application process, particularly if you never receive COBRA election paperwork or denied coverage. Contact an experienced employment law attorney at Florin Gray if you believe your COBRA rights were violated.
At Florin Gray, our legal team is dedicated to the pursuit of justice for the people we represent. Our law firm has more than 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in employment law. Contact us today if we can help.