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Lost Your Health Coverage? COBRA Could Help

A healthcare provider sitting with a family

Losing a job or having hours reduced can be incredibly stressful for workers and their families. And often that stress is made even worse by concerns over access to health care coverage, which may workers receive through employer-sponsored plans.   

Luckily, many families in this situation may be able to keep their same health coverage: Since April 1986, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – or as it is more commonly known, COBRA -- has helped workers and their families keep their health coverage when they need it most.  

You and your family may want to consider signing up for COBRA coverage if: 

  • You lose your job; 

  • Your hours are reduced to the point where you lose health coverage; 

  • Your child ages out of  your health plan; 

  • You and your spouse divorce or separate; or 

  • You sign up for Medicare; or 

Additionally, if you die, your family can stay on your employer's health coverage through COBRA. 

Before COBRA, workers and their dependents usually found themselves without health coverage in these situations. Today, COBRA can provide benefits for those who elect the coverage, including: 

  • Staying on your (former) employer’s health plan, so you can keep your doctors. 

  • Coverage that lasts for 18 to 36 months, depending on why you lost coverage, giving you time to look for other coverage. 

  • The ability for your spouse and your children to elect COBRA coverage, whether or not you do. 

You have 60 days from the date the plan provides notice or from the date your employer-sponsored health coverage ended – whichever is later – to sign up for COBRA coverage. It begins the day your health care coverage ended. 

The plan may require you to pay the entire group rate premium, plus a 2 percent administrative fee. So consider cost when comparing coverage options. 

To learn more about COBRA, visit our COBRA resource page for information about your rights and your (former) employer’s responsibilities under the law.  

EBSA also has benefits advisors available to answer your questions about COBRA. You can contact them online at www.askebsa.dol.gov or by calling 1-866-444-3272. 

Ali Khawar is the acting assistant secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration.

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