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How to Apply for COBRA Continuation Of Your Health Insurance

How To Apply For COBRA If You Stop Working

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Step 1. Employer Notice

 Your employer or plan administrator must notify the health plan administrator (which is sometimes the employer) that a COBRA qualifying event has occurred within 30 days of the event. The plan then must notify you within 14 days of your right to continued coverage.

When you stop working (or know ahead of time that you are about to stop):

  • Ask your employer for the COBRA notice.
  • If your employer insists on mailing the notice to you::
    • Ask for a date when to expect the notice.
    • Make a notation in your diary
    • If you don't receive the notice, follow up with your employer and, if there is one, the Plan Administrator.

Step 2. Employee Notice To Employer Or Plan Administrator

You must notify the employer or any company that administers the plan (the plan administrator) that you want to continue health coverage within 60 days after the later the date you stopped working or the date you're notified of your rights.

Step 3. Pay the first premium

You have up to 45 days after giving the COBRA enrollment form to your ex-employer or plan administrator to make the first premium payment -- which includes premiums back to the date when the regular group coverage ended.

Although the premium is not due for 45 days after notifying the employer of your intent to continue coverage, consider paying the first month (or two) with your acceptance. It will avoid the financial blow of waiting until the last minute and owing up to four months worth of premiums at once.

Step 4. If you are "Disabled" when you stop work

Start looking at the requirements for extending health insurance beyond 18 months even if you don't think you're going to need this insurance for that long. As you will see in How To Apply For A COBRA Extension Because Of Disability, a major requirement is that Social Security has to certify that you are disabled.

Getting the certification can take a good amount of time, with many actions required by other people that are beyond your control. This can be especially true if you have to appeal a decision to get the determination you need. Bottom line: start the process as soon as you can. (To learn more, see Applying For Social Security Disability Insurance.)


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