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Global Work Glossary

What are COBRA benefits?

COBRA benefits, governed by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, provide individuals and their dependents the option to continue their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage after experiencing a qualifying event that would typically result in the loss of coverage. Here's an overview of COBRA benefits:

What COBRA Covers:

COBRA typically covers group health plans offered by state or local governments or private-sector employers with at least 20 employees. Covered services may include:

Inpatient and outpatient hospital care Physician care Surgery and major medical benefits Prescription drugs Dental and vision care Eligibility for COBRA Benefits: Eligible individuals include employees, spouses, and dependent children who were covered under the health plan when the qualifying event occurred. Qualifying events include job loss, reduction in hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, or other life events. Individuals must notify plan administrators within 60 days of the qualifying event to elect COBRA continuation coverage.

Duration of COBRA Coverage:

COBRA coverage can typically be maintained for up to 18 months after the qualifying event. However, in certain cases, such as disability or divorce, coverage may be extended up to 36 months. Beneficiaries must pay the full premium, including the portion previously covered by the employer, along with a small administrative fee.

Costs Associated with COBRA:

COBRA beneficiaries must pay the full monthly premium, which includes both the employee and employer's share, plus a 2% administrative fee. This can make COBRA coverage expensive, as the employer no longer subsidizes a portion of the premium costs.

Impact on Team and Business Needs:

COBRA coverage helps former employees and their families maintain health insurance during transitional periods. Offering COBRA can demonstrate a commitment to employee welfare but requires resources and adds complexity to HR responsibilities.

Improving COBRA Benefits Administration:

Clear communication, automated processes, accurate record-keeping, and third-party administrators can streamline COBRA administration and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

Employers must adhere to notification deadlines, accurately bill and collect premiums, manage beneficiaries' elections, and address compliance issues promptly to avoid penalties.

Alternatives to COBRA Benefits:

Individuals may consider enrolling in a spouse's plan, purchasing individual insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, or exploring short-term options. Active employees eligible for COBRA should compare costs and coverage before deciding.

Determining COBRA Suitability:

Factors to consider include premium costs, coverage period, healthcare needs, available alternatives, pre-existing conditions, provider network, and timing of other insurance options.

Managing COBRA for a Global, Remote Workforce:

Multinational companies should understand and comply with similar laws in countries where they operate. Employers must ensure remote workers are informed about their COBRA rights and options, regardless of their location.

COBRA benefits provide crucial support for individuals and their families during periods of transition, but understanding eligibility, costs, alternatives, and compliance requirements is essential for both employers and employees.

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