Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Health Insurance Marketplace Coverage to Workers Eligible for COBRA

Dana Halvorson

Last week, the Administration announced updates to model notices informing workers of their eligibility to continue health-care coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).  According to a May 2 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) press release on the issue, the updates make it clear to workers that if they are eligible for COBRA continuation coverage when leaving a job, they may choose to instead purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace
The press release mentions that workers and their families who are eligible for employer-sponsored coverage generally must be informed of their right to COBRA continuation coverage at the start of employment.  They must also be informed of their right to purchase COBRA coverage when separating from a job.  The proposed changes to the model notices would offer information on more affordable options available through the Marketplace, where workers and families may be eligible for financial assistance that would not otherwise be available for COBRA continuation coverage.  In most cases, workers and their families eligible for, but not enrolled in, COBRA continuation coverage would be able to enroll in Marketplace coverage outside of the normal open enrollment period. 

The Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Treasury are publishing frequently asked questions related to the proposed changes to model notices.  The FAQs are posted on the DOL website and the CMS website.  In addition, HHS is publishing a clarifying bulletin regarding a special enrollment period in the Marketplace for individuals already enrolled in COBRA continuation coverage.  The bulletin can be found here.  The updated model notices are posted on the DOL website, and can be found by clicking here and here.  A related notice of proposed rulemaking on the COBRA notice requirements will be published in the May 7 edition of the Federal Register.  The notice of proposed rulemaking can also be viewed here.

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