The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has previously made available model notices that plans may use to satisfy the requirements under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). The DOL has now released and made available updated versions of the model general notice and the model election notice to ensure that qualified beneficiaries better understand the interactions between Medicare and COBRA.
In general, under the COBRA continuation coverage provisions, an individual who was covered by a group health plan on the day before a qualifying event (such as termination of employment, divorce, or a dependent aging out of a plan) may be able to elect COBRA continuation coverage upon experiencing a loss of coverage (due to such qualifying event). A group health plan must provide qualified beneficiaries with a COBRA election notice that, among other things, describes their rights to continuation coverage and how to make an election. In general, the COBRA election notice must be written in a manner “calculated to be understood by the average plan participant.”
The updated model notices do not reflect any changes in the law, though they do provide employees with more information about when they can enroll in Medicare and the conditions under which enrolling in Medicare can result in a termination of COBRA coverage.
The COBRA regulations provide detailed content requirements for both the COBRA general notice and the COBRA election notice. Employers should work with their COBRA vendors and consult with benefits counsel to determine whether the notices distributed to plan participants meet all of the requirements or if updates are necessary.
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