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Who Is Protected Under COBRA?

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All employees covered under an employer's health insurance plan are covered by COBRA.

There is no minimum period of time the employee must have health insurance before qualifying for COBRA. Being covered for even one day is enough.

COBRA protects:

  • Most people who, on the day before a qualifying event, are covered under a group health plan. This includes:
    • The person who worked for the employer,
    • The covered husband or wife of that covered employee, and
    • Covered dependent children of a covered employee.
    • It does not include significant others or domestic partners, even if that person was covered under the group plan
  • Employees whose hours are reduced so that they are no longer eligible for insurance.
  • Spouses:
    • A spouse married after a qualifying event, but without independent COBRA rights. (Once a person loses coverage, each individual's right to COBRA is separate and independent from the other COBRA beneficiaries in the same family.)
    • Ex-spouses after the divorce becomes final, whether the covered person is working or not.
    • Widows/widowers when the employee dies, whether the person is still employed or on COBRA.
  • Children:
    • A child that was a dependent while the employee was still working but not listed under the health plan can be added during the COBRA period, but without independent COBRA rights of his or her own.
    • Any child born to or placed for adoption with a covered employee during a period while COBRA continues health coverage. To be covered, the child must be enrolled in the plan within thirty-one days after the child is born or acquired. These children acquire independent COBRA rights.
    • Dependent children who lose coverage because of age, marriage or loss of student status.

Significant others, domestic partners and gay couples are not eligible for continuation benefits under COBRA. However, many employers who offer domestic partner coverage voluntarily offer some form of continuation of coverage equivalent to COBRA.

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