Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly Asked Questions about COBRA Insurance


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Losing a job can be a very stressful time for individuals and families, only further complicated by having to make difficult and often confusing decisions about health insurance. There are many options, including COBRA health insurance and alternatives, and likely many questions will arise for you during this time. The decision to elect COBRA insurance or seek out an alternative is based on many different factors including lifestyle, health status, age, and budget, and because of that, a difficult decision. Use these frequently asked questions to help you find out the answers to the questions we hear most often.

COBRA Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

Does my state offer COBRA insurance?

Many states offer state COBRA insurance plans that extend coverage to people who do not qualify under the federal laws. These plans are called COBRA extension plans or Mini COBRA plans in many cases. Learn about state sponsored COBRA insurance plans.

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Can some people in my family use COBRA insurance while other people use something else?

Of course! When you elect to continue health insurance care with COBRA, you can chose exactly who you want to sign up. This many times can be the most cost effective scenario if someone in your household has a preexisting condition for which COBRA insurance is there best option.

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I am moving to another state, will I keep my coverage with COBRA?

If you are moving out of state, there is a change you can keep your COBRA coverage, depending on your health insurance plan. If your health insurance plan has coverage in the new state you are moving to and allows you to keep coverage, then you can also keep coverage. However, many insurance companies limit the area of their health insurance plans since many states have different health insurance laws. Call your insurance provider to find out.

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Will COBRA insurance cover my prescription medications?

Since COBRA laws allow you to keep your previous health insurance plan, the rules and costs for prescriptions will be identical. The same medications will be covered at the same cost and any other rules associated with prescriptions in your plan will be exactly the same.

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Do I need to get a new doctor when I am on COBRA health insurance?

Under COBRA insurance laws, you are simply choosing to continue to keep your previous health insurance plan. That means the plan stays exactly the same and there is no reason to find new doctors. Nothing about the plan will change.

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My employer is changing the health insurance plan, what does that mean for me on COBRA?

In most cases if you are continuing the health insurance plan with COBRA, you will have the option to choose to be insured with the new health insurance plan. Any changes in the cost or plan will also change for you. You will not have the option to continue the previous plan with COBRA.

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I am on COBRA and pregnant, will my child be covered when she is born?

Under COBRA insurance, your health insurance plan is exactly the same as it was while you were working. That means that you can add your child when they are born just as you normally would.

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What should I do if I don’t get an election notice from my employer?

The best thing to do if you do not get a COBRA election notice from your employer is to immediately contact both your former employer and your former group health insurance provider. Your former company is required by law to provide you with a form within 14 days. If after contacting them you still do not receive an election form, reach out to the Department of Labor.

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How long do I have to decide if I want to sign up for COBRA?

One you receive the COBRA insurance election form, you have 60 days to determine if you want COBRA health insurance and to send in the form. If you do decide to sign up for COBRA, your health insurance coverage will be retroactive back to the day you would have lost coverage. Also, you will be responsible for paying any premiums for that time when you sign up. That means if you wait the full 60 days to sign up, you will have to pay 2 months of premiums.

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What happens if I forget to pay the premium?

Unfortunately in most cases if you forget to pay your premium for COBRA, your health insurance coverage will be terminated. If at any point you realize you forgot to pay a premium or are not able to pay, contact your group health insurance company immediately and let them know what is happening so you can hopefully work something out so you can keep your insurance.

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What happens if I can’t afford COBRA insurance coverage?

Many people find that they can not afford COBRA health insurance after they lose their job due to its extremely high price tag. If you find yourself in this situation, your best bet is to explore the many alternatives to COBRA insurance that exist. Learn more about COBRA insurance alternatives.

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Am I eligible for COBRA insurance if my husband, who has our health insurance coverage, passes away?

If your husband was on a group health insurance plan that covered at least 20 full time employees, then in most circumstances you will be eligible for COBRA insurance. Under the COBRA health insurance laws, people are normally eligible for COBRA for up to 36 months after a spouse passes away.

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I just turned 26 and no longer qualify for my parent’s plan, can I use COBRA insurance?

Fortunately you are eligible for COBRA insurance since losing your dependent status with a parent’s health insurance plan counts as a qualifying event. In most situations, you will be able to continue health insurance coverage for 36 months after losing your dependent status with COBRA. It will however cost the entire cost of the premium to keep your medical insurance.

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Can I sign up for COBRA insurance if my company is going out of business?

Unfortunately, COBRA insurance is only available when the group health insurance plan is still available. Since generally when a company goes out of business, they also cancel the health insurance plan, that means in most instances COBRA health insurance isn’t a possibility.

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Can I sign up for COBRA if I quit my job?

Yes! Under the federal COBRA laws you can sign up for COBRA health insurance if you quit your job as long as there is no gross misconduct present. The COBRA laws cover both voluntarily and involuntarily job loss.

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Am I eligible for COBRA insurance if I get divorced?

If you were previously covered under your spouse’s health insurance plan, you are eligible to enroll in COBRA insurance in most cases. The divorce counts as a qualifying event. Normally this coverage can last up to 36 months and you will be responsible for paying the entire premium.

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How long does COBRA insurance last?

In most situations COBRA insurance lasts for 18 months. There are some special circumstances that could extend coverage to 36 months depending on the qualifying event. These can include disability within the first 60 days, death of the covered employee, divorce, legal separation, or loss of dependent status.

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How much does COBRA insurance cost?

The cost of COBRA insurance depends on the cost of your health insurance plan. Under COBRA laws, you must pay for the entire premium plus a 2% administration fee. Since most employers subsidize up to 90% of health insurance costs, COBRA can be very expensive. On average individuals spend upwards of $400 monthly on COBRA and families spend upwards of $1000 monthly.

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Who can use COBRA insurance?

Under the federal law, luckily most people qualify to elect COBRA continuation coverage. You must meet three requirements under the law known as qualifying plan, qualifying event, and qualifying beneficiary. A qualifying plan is the type of health insurance plan you had with your prior employer. Generally to meet this requirement your group health insurance plan must have covered at least 20 full time employees. The second requirement, qualifying event, is the reason why you lost health insurance coverage. Generally if you lost, quit, or retired from your job you are eligible as an employee. Finally, the last requirement, qualified beneficiary, is who is eligible to be covered. In most cases anyone who was covered in the group health insurance plan of the employer will remain covered with COBRA.

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What is COBRA insurance in simple terms?

In the most basic terms, COBRA insurance is a law that allows you to continue to keep your group health insurance after being terminated, retiring, or quitting. Your plan will remain the exact same if you sign up for COBRA but you will be responsible for paying for the plan in full. To sign up for COBRA, you must meet certain COBRA insurance eligibility requirements.

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