COBRA is a federal law that allows eligible employees to keep their existing employer-sponsored health insurance plan after experiencing a “qualifying event.”
This chart lists the qualifying events that may entitle you to continued coverage under COBRA and the maximum length of time you can keep your plan. *There are two times when you may be able to extend COBRA coverage. There are also a few times when COBRA coverage may end early, such as when an employer stops offering health insurance coverage to all employees or when an employer goes out of business. For more information, read the Quick Guide to COBRA.
COBRA applies to private employers with 20 or more employees, or state or local governments. Federal employees have similar protections under a different law. Most states also have a state COBRA law that covers employers with 2 to 19 employees.
One of the main barriers to COBRA coverage is cost. Typically, you pay 100% of what your employer was paying for your coverage, plus a possible 2% administrative fee (for a total of 102%). However, there may be some benefits to choosing COBRA. For example, if you are in the middle of treatment, with COBRA coverage, you wouldn't have to find a new insurance plan that has the same coverage for your doctors, hospitals, and prescription drugs. Also, if you have already met your out-of-pocket maximum or deductible for the year, it may be less expensive to pay the higher COBRA premiums and not have any out-of-pocket costs for the rest of the year. You should do the math to figure out which option would cost you less.
You are required to choose COBRA within 60 days of your qualifying event. If you wait until the 59th day, you would have to back-pay the premiums for the two prior months, but any medical care that you received during that time would be paid for by your COBRA plan. If you need financial assistance for your COBRA premiums, the Health Insurance Premium Payment Program (HIPP) may help. If you qualify for Medicaid, but have access to a group plan through an employer (e.g., COBRA), Medicaid may pay your monthly premium for the group plan. To see if this is an option in your state, visit TriageCancer.org/StateResources.