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How Long Can I Keep My COBRA Coverage?

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How Long Can I Keep My COBRA Coverage?

COBRA gives individuals who have lost group healthcare coverage due a specific qualifying event the right to continue that group coverage. Continuation coverage extends for a limited period of time, either 18 or 36 months, beginning on the date of the qualifying event. The maximum period of continuation coverage as required by law depends upon the type of qualifying event that gave rise to COBRA coverage.


If your qualifying event is termination or reduction in work hours, your maximum period of coverage is 18 months.

If your qualifying event is retirement and you became eligible for Medicare within 18 months of the qualifying event, you are entitled to 36 months of COBRA continuation coverage, beginning on the date you became eligible for Medicare. For example, if you qualified for Medicare in three months before you retired, you would be entitled to 33 months of COBRA coverage.
All other qualifying events give individuals the right to 36 months of continuation coverage.


Healthcare plans may be allowed to terminate COBRA continuation coverage early for a number of reasons:

Premiums not paid in full.
Employer ends group health plan for all employees.
You receive coverage under another group health plan.
You become eligible for Medicare.
You engage in conduct (like fraud) that would cancel the healthcare plan of a similarly situated participant.
If a plan is terminated early for any reason, the plan must notify you in writing.


COBRA continuation coverage can extend beyond 18 months in two important circumstances:

Disability. If any qualified individual on your plan becomes disabled (as designated by the Social Security Administration), all beneficiaries of the plan may become eligible for an 11 month extension of coverage. The disability must be determined by the SSA before the 60th day of COBRA coverage, and must continue throughout the initial 18 months of coverage.

Second qualifying event. You are entitled to an 18-month extension of coverage (for a maximum 36 months) if you experience a second qualifying event. The second event can only trigger an extension if it would have caused you to lose coverage without the first qualifying event.
RedQuote works with both employers and beneficiaries to help enroll people in COBRA or shop for a Marketplace health plan.  If you want to enroll in COBRA or select a marketplace plan, RedQuote may be able to help you compare the benefits and costs.  Don’t hesitate to contact us to see if we can help you find the right plan for your budget and family.

Published Jun 1, 2016.

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