COBRA Participant Toolkit

Enrolling and Keeping Your Coverage

Enrolling In COBRA
You have 60 days from the later of the date of your initial COBRA continuation notice or your coverage end date to enroll in COBRA. Your notice contains instructions for enrolling online, or you can enroll on the form and send it back. If you mail in your form, it must be postmarked by the deadline to enroll for your enrollment to be valid.

You have 45 days from the date you enroll to make your first payment. Your coverage is not reinstated until you make your first premium payment. Your initial payment will be for the period from your qualifying event date to the present, so it can cover a couple of months' worth (or more) of premiums. Your coverage is reinstated retroactive to the date of the qualifying event.
Keeping Your Coverage
There are two steps you need to take to keep your COBRA coverage through its expiration date:

Pay your entire premium on time each month without fail. The safest way to do this is to pay online (login to your account to do this). If you send in a check, get a certificate of mailing from the post office to prove you sent in a payment. If you do not pay on time, you will lose coverage. "On time" means postmarked by the deadline.

Pay attention at open enrollment. As a COBRA participant, you will go through open enrolment just like your active employee counterparts. Open enrollment may or may not be a passive enrollment. Depending on any plan changes, there's a possibility that you may lose coverage at the start of the subsequent plan year if you do not actively enroll. Pay attention to your enrollment materials at open enrollment.

And remember: Once you lose coverage, it cannot be reinstated.
How Can I Extend the Length of COBRA Continuation Coverage?
You may be eligible for an extension in limited situations. Here is what's available:

- Spouses and Dependent Children can have a second qualifying event. These are events that occur during the first 18 months of continuation coverage that would have caused you to lose coverage if the first qualifying event hadn't occurred.

These events include:
  • The covered employee's death;
  • Divorce or legal separation from the covered employee;
  • A child stops being eligible for coverage under the plan as a "dependent child," typically due to reaching the maximum covered age.

- Disability:
If any of the QB's become disabled during the first 60 days of COBRA coverage, an 11-month extension of coverage may be available to each of the QB's who elected continuation coverage if the following conditions apply:

  • The QB must be determined under the Social Security Act (SSA) to be disabled.
  • The Social Security Administration needs to deem you disabled before or within the fist 60 days of COBRA coverage and the disability must last at least until the end of the 18-month period of continuation coverage.

The maximum amount of continuation coverage available when a second qualifying event occurs is 36 months from the date continuation coverage originally started.
COBRA Coverage Periods
What Are the Coverage Periods?