Can I still sign up for COBRA?
May 20, 2009 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I lost my job, got a new job, now I'm quiting that job, am I still eligible for COBRA from my previous job? And if I am, should I sign up for it?

In Feburary I was downsized and lost my job, at that time I was eligible for COBRA but I decided not to sign up. Lucky for me, I found a new job pretty quickly and became eligible for their health care plan at the this month (May 2009). Now, however, I got another offer that I can't refuse and I'm going out on my own as a contractor. Due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, my window of opportunity has extended so I can sign up for COBRA from my previous employer. Not only that, but my premiums are lowered by 65%, which sounds like a huge blessing to me. My question is, should I do this? Should I sign up for COBRA and say that my COBRA offering was due to a reduction in force (which it was) and pay my 35% premium? Is this fraud? Will I get into trouble with the IRS or otherwise? If so, what am I looking at?

I should note that I am in good health and taking no perscriptions. I get annual physicals and am not opposed to getting a plan on my own.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Human Resources teams and Labor lawyers are still trying to figure many of the details out about ARRA and its application to some of the stranger COBRA situations. I would call the DOL at 1.866.444.3272 to speak to a benefits adviser.
posted by slavlin at 9:06 PM on May 20, 2009

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a COBRA expert.

After reading An Employee's Guide to Health Benefits under COBRA and several of the Department of Labor pages on the on the COBRA Continuation Coverage Assistance Under the ARRA, I believe that you are still eligible for COBRA from the first job, because although you had the opportunity to get health care from the second job, you did not take it. COBRA is only terminated if you stop paying your premiums, become eligible for Medicare, engage in insurance fraud, or if you begin coverage under another group health plan after electing COBRA. To me, this indicates that the extended window of coverage would not be available to you if you had elected other group health insurance, which you have not.

If I were you, I would call an Employee Benefits Security Administration Benefits Advisor at the Department of Labor at 1.866.444.3272, as instructed on the FAQ for Employees About COBRA Premium Reduction Under ARRA website- I think that will be the best way to get this question answered. COBRA law can be difficult to untangle and I imagine that they're getting questions just like this on a daily basis.
posted by k8lin at 9:18 PM on May 20, 2009

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