If you recently have lost job-based health benefits, you may be eligible for COBRA, short for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986. COBRA provides the option of continuing a employer-sponsored health plan for a limited period of time. Is it the best alternative for you? Here’s a quick Q & A to break it down.
What does having COBRA mean?
This means you will continue to be covered under your employer-sponsored plan, but the cost of coverage could change. For example, your former employer may no longer pay any of the premium, or may offer to pay the premium for just a few months as part of your severance package.
How long can I have COBRA?
COBRA continuation of coverage lasts for 18 months but in some cases, you can extend it to 36 months. If your employer cancels the group plan, your COBRA coverage will stop.
If you opt to use COBRA benefits, you must do so within 30 days of the last day of employment. COBRA is considered minimum essential coverage, and enrollment in COBRA satisfies the requirement to have health care coverage.
What are my other options?
If you decide not to take COBRA coverage, you can enroll in a qualified health plan through Maryland Health Connection, even if it’s outside of the open enrollment period. Loss of employer-sponsored coverage qualifies for a special enrollment, so you can enroll within 60 days of the loss of employer-sponsored coverage (usually the last day of work).
If you already have COBRA coverage, then you can only switch to a plan through Maryland Health Connection if one of the following events occurs:
- The COBRA continuation coverage period has expired.
- It is open enrollment for Maryland Health Connection plans.
- You qualify for a special enrollment due to a qualifying life event such as marriage or the birth of a child.
- Your COBRA costs change because your former employer contributed to the cost for a period of time but then stopped contributing.
- Your COBRA coverage ends because your employer’s group plan is terminated.
Medicaid enrollment is any time of the year.
You may apply for Medicaid at any time if you are eligible. You do not have to wait until the open enrollment period or until COBRA coverage ends to enroll in Medicaid.
COBRA versus Maryland Health Connection coverage:
Use the “Get an estimate” tool to compare the cost and benefits of Maryland Health Connection coverage with that of COBRA. It is important to know your options when making a decision.
For extensive details on COBRA health coverage from the U.S. Department of Labor, please click here.
About Maryland Health Connection
Maryland Health Connection is Maryland’s official health insurance marketplace for individuals and families to compare plans and enroll in health and dental coverage. It’s the only place to get financial help with health coverage. See if you qualify for financial help like tax credits or Medicaid/MCHP to make health insurance more affordable.