COVID-19 and COBRA Continuing Healthcare Benefits
Apr 02, 2020
If you had healthcare benefits, but you lost your job or were laid off due to coronavirus, your healthcare coverage may have been interrupted when you and your family needed them most. Under federal law, most employers must offer you continued healthcare coverage—also known as COBRA healthcare benefits—after your employment terminates.
Access to COBRA healthcare benefits is particularly important when you or your family are facing major healthcare expenses. If you recently lost your job and are concerned about your ability to pay for medical expenses, from coronavirus or other serious medical conditions, you should be aware of your right to COBRA healthcare benefits.
Is my former employer required to offer COBRA continuing healthcare benefits?
If you worked for a private company or business that provided you healthcare benefits, your former employer must offer COBRA continuing healthcare benefits, with limited exceptions. For instance, COBRA does not apply to employers with fewer than 20 employees; to some types of religious institutions, like churches; or to certain governmental units and agencies.
Am I eligible for COBRA continuing healthcare benefits?
If you were receiving healthcare benefits from a qualifying employer, and your employment was terminated for any reason other than serious workplace misconduct, your former employer must offer you COBRA continuing healthcare benefits. In most circumstances, if you had healthcare benefits and were laid off for reasons related to COVID-19, you should be eligible for COBRA benefits.
How much time does my former employer have to provide notice of my right to COBRA continuing healthcare benefits?
If you were fired or laid off, you must receive notice of your COBRA rights no more than 44 days after your prior healthcare coverage terminates.
How do I apply for COBRA continuing healthcare benefits?
If you are eligible for COBRA continuing healthcare benefits, your employer (or a benefits administrator acting on your employer’s behalf) must provide you with notice of your right to COBRA benefits. In plain language, that notice must explain how to elect COBRA benefits, who to submit your election form to, and how much COBRA benefits cost.
How do I pay for COBRA continuing healthcare benefits?
You are responsible for paying the premiums for COBRA continuing healthcare benefits. Because these premiums include those previously paid by your former employer, your premiums will be substantially higher than what you paid beforehand. In the notice of your right to COBRA benefits, the notice must specify the amount of monthly premiums and where to send the payment.
My COBRA notice is confusing. What do I do?
If you receive a confusing COBRA notice, and you are not sure about how to elect continuing healthcare benefits, your employer may have violated its legal obligations under COBRA. If the notice has contact information for your employer or a benefits administrator, you may want to try reaching out to them first. If those contacts do not work, or if your employer or benefits administrator impede your efforts to apply for COBRA benefits, the attorneys at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP can assist you with making a legal claim and preserving your rights.
I never received a COBRA notice. What do I do?
If you are eligible for COBRA benefits, but you never receive notice from your employer or a benefits administrator, your employer may have violated its legal obligations under COBRA. The attorneys at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP can assist you with making a legal claim and preserving your rights.
What happens if I sue for COBRA violations?
In a lawsuit against your former employer or its benefits administrator for COBRA violations, you may be able to recover your medical expenses, as well as a penalty of up to $110 per day from the point the COBRA notice was due.
Contact Our Healthcare Benefits and Minnesota COVID-19 Lawyers
Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees through Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding Twin Cities area. If you have been denied COBRA benefits, or if your efforts to obtain COBRA benefits were impeded or interfered with, our employee benefit lawyers want to hear from you. Contact us for a free initial consultation.