COBRA Basics – What is a COBRA Qualifying Event?

COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) requires covered employers to offer continued health plan coverage to qualified beneficiaries when they experience a COBRA “qualifying event.”

Federal COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees in the preceding calendar year, but not to government or church plans. Federal COBRA continuation requirements apply more broadly than just to the major medical plan. Any employer-sponsored plans considered to be group health plans because they provide significant medical care are subject to COBRA. This would include plans such as the following: major medical, prescription drug coverage, health FSA (some special rules may apply depending upon whether the account is overspent or underspent), and HRA.

This issue brief discusses which events are considered “qualifying events.” This brief will also identify events that are commonly misclassified as qualifying events but that do not entitle an individual to continued coverage.

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