Understanding all of the provisions related to COBRA is daunting even to some professionals and so is information about COBRA alternatives. There are important deadlines that must be met if a person plans on continuing their health insurance after becoming eligible for benefits under COBRA. Most people realize they have more questions after they have had their meeting with the human resources department or received their written notification of COBRA benefits in the mail. It is imperative that people take action to get the answers they need so that they can make an informed decision about whether to continue with their employer-sponsored benefits or to choose a COBRA alternative. Here are some questions that are common:
What is COBRA? Most people don’t even know what COBRA is much less have an understand about how to sign up for benefits. In short, COBRA is the acronym for a law enacted by Congress in the late 80s. It was set up to protect employees from losing health insurance coverage when there is a death of the sponsoring employee, a divorce, a job separation whether voluntary or involuntary, or a reduction in qualified hours for retaining health insurance coverage. COBRA is not health insurance.
What is a COBRA alternative? Any private health insurance can be an alternative to COBRA. Policies are available for purchase from licensed health insurance agents. Private health insurance policies are contacts made between the person covered and the insurance company, not the employer.
How long do benefits under COBRA provisions last? People can continue their employer-sponsored benefits for up to 18 months. This can be extended for a total coverage of up to 36 months if the person meets eligibility requirements such as disability.
How long do benefits under a COBRA alternative last? As long as premiums are paid, private health insurance policies last until the policy is canceled for nonpayment or the covered person chooses to cancel the policy.
How much will it cost for benefits under COBRA provisions? This is a question that can only be answered by the benefits administrator in the human resources department of the former employer. People who choose to enroll in coverage continuation under COBRA provisions must pay for 100% of all insurance premiums plus a 2% surcharge each month.
How much will a COBRA alternative policy cost? People can get free quotes from a licensed health insurance agent. Premium costs vary by the type of policy and the state where the individual lives. Rates are also affected by health and age.
These are just a few of the many questions people may have about health insurance coverage related to COBRA and COBRA alternatives. People should contact the benefits administrator at their former employer for questions about COBRA. Questions about COBRA alternatives should be directed to a qualified health insurance agent.
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