(Last updated July 19, 2003)

Under what circumstances can my COBRA be canceled?

Employers can cancel your COBRA coverage if they eliminate their group health coverage completely (or go out of business). In addition, your COBRA coverage will be canceled if you:
  • Fail to make full and timely payments. (Although short payments are allowed as long as they're short by an "insignificant amount." Know your COBRA rights.)
  • Become entitled to Medicare.
  • Obtain coverage under another group health plan after electing COBRA.
  • Move out of the health plan's service area.

Can somebody else pay my COBRA premiums?

Yes. As long as your payments are made in full and on time, it does not matter who or what entity pays them. For example, if you get a divorce, your spouse might agree to continue your payments, for instance.

If I relocate out of the area served by my health plan under COBRA, does my former employer have to offer me the option of switching to another plan so I can keep my benefits?

Generally not. If you are moving to an area not covered by any health plan your employer already holds, your employer is not required to make any additional coverage available to you. But if your employer makes other forms of health coverage available to its active employees, and one or more of those plans already serves the area to which you are moving, you would also have to be offered that coverage.

If my former employer holds an open enrollment period for active employees, allowing them to switch health plans if they choose, do I and my family, who are covered under COBRA, have the right to switch to another plan, too?

Yes. In fact, open enrollment rights must be made available to every one of your family members covered under your COBRA plan. During the open enrollment period, each member of your family could choose coverage under a separate plan if the employer offers more than one health plan to active employees.

My spouse and I separated, but before the actual date of the divorce my spouse cut off my health coverage through their employer. My divorce won't be final for many months. Am I entitled to get my benefits back under COBRA?

Yes. As soon as the employer or plan administrator receives notice of your divorce (or legal separation), they are required to make COBRA available to you. The coverage would be effective as of the date of the divorce or separation.

If you have questions about COBRA or self-insured employer plans, which are both governed by the U.S. Department of Labor, contact your regional or district office of the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor.

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