COBRA Health Insurance Attorney Serving Georgia
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act—better known as COBRA—is a federal law that helps employees retain health insurance benefits when they lose their employer-sponsored health coverage. COBRA can be a great asset to you and your family if you lose your job or reduce your work hours.
However, employers or plan administrators in Georgia often make mistakes, causing substantial financial loss and emotional anguish to workers. When an employer unlawfully denies you COBRA coverage or fails to comply with other COBRA obligations, you could be entitled to benefits and damages.
What does COBRA do?
COBRA and subsequent regulations establish employer requirements that allow employees on employer health plans to retain health insurance benefits for themselves and their families. The COBRA requirements spring into action when employees lose their jobs, are forced to cut their work hours, or lose coverage for other reasons.
Benefits through COBRA only last for a limited time, but they can help you get through difficult health situations or periods of unemployment.
Who is eligible to receive COBRA benefits in Georgia?
To be eligible for COBRA, you must be a “qualifying beneficiary” under the law. Essentially, this means that you must:
- Have previously been on an employee group health plan
- Maintained participation in the plan for at least half of the business days in the prior calendar year
- Receive eligibility through an employer who has more than 20 employees in its group health plan
Beneficiaries may include employees covered by group health plans, spouses, former spouses, and children.
When can I receive COBRA benefits?
Beneficiaries can receive COBRA continuation insurance coverage when a “qualifying event” occurs that causes them to lose group health coverage. A qualifying event could be the employee’s job loss or the death or divorce of the employee. Other qualifying events that could lead to COBRA eligibility include a reduction in work hours for the covered employee or the employee’s enrollment in Medicare that causes a spouse or child to lose coverage.
Can I lose eligibility for COBRA?
The short answer to this is yes. It is possible to lose your COBRA coverage if your employer cancels your group health insurance plan or if you have not paid the plan premiums. You might also lose COBRA benefits if you go on Medicare or enroll in a different employer-provided plan. In addition, employers do not generally have to provide COBRA coverage if an employee termination occurs for “gross misconduct.”
When should I tell my employer I want COBRA benefits?
You should notify your employer or plan administrator of your intent as soon as your employment status changes if a change in employment status is the reason you are electing to use COBRA. Your employer is obligated to notify the group plan about the qualifying event.
You have 60 days to tell your plan administrator about your election for continuation coverage if you experience a life event like divorce that requires you to use COBRA.
Employers or plan administrators have to meet federal requirements for providing COBRA in Georgia, so the sooner you can notify them that you elect to use COBRA, the better.
When does my employer have to notify me about my COBRA rights?
Employers must provide certain information about COBRA rights within 90 days after the employee becomes part of the insurance plan. After a plan is notified about the qualifying event that triggers COBRA eligibility, your plan administrator has 14 days to respond and give you notice about your COBRA rights.
If your employer is your plan administrator, they may have some additional time to send your election notice—usually 44 days.
What if my employer doesn’t give me notice about my COBRA rights?
Employers are required to provide notice to their employees when they have the option to choose COBRA and continue their health insurance coverage. If they fail to do so, they could face fines or be required to cover medical costs arising during the delay.
You may also have the option to sue your employer or plan administrator for not giving you notice--this could entitle you to additional damages or compensation for attorneys’ fees.
What are my options if I am denied COBRA in Georgia?
If you receive a notice that says you are not eligible for COBRA, but you actually are, this mistake could result in a penalty for your employer. Other situations in which your employer or plan administrator might have violated your rights include:
- Not getting a COBRA notice
- Not receiving all appropriate documents
- Receiving an incomplete notice without the required information
- Getting a notice that is too complicated to understand
Overall, it’s best to talk to a Georgia employment attorney if you feel there’s been a mistake with your COBRA coverage. You could be entitled to benefits or damages, and a lawyer can help you verify your eligibility and build your case.
A Georgia Employment Attorney Could Help You Pursue COBRA Relief
If you have been unlawfully denied COBRA coverage or never received notification of eligibility, talk to an experienced Georgia employment law attorney from The Leach Firm, P.A. to schedule a free consultation. We are dedicated to fighting for workers’ rights and will strive to get you the remedies allowed by law.