COBRA letter from a company I don't recognize
August 3, 2014 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I received a COBRA notice from a company I don't recognize. It seems to be administered through Ceridian. What might be going on?

Hi everyone,

I got a COBRA letter 2 days ago from a company I don't recognize. I've tried calling Ceridian's support line but they only offer 2 options: account ID and SSN. I don't know what the account ID would be and I'm not giving them SSN, at least not yet.

I have worked for 2 temp companies in the past (a year ago) but this company I got the letter for... I don't recognize it at all. It could be for or on behalf of my parents since I'm still on one of their health insurance plans but the letter is addressed to MYNAME and Eligible Dependents and was sent to my previous address (got it through mail forwarding). Also, the letter is "General Notice of Continuation Coverage Rights Under Cobra". I'm not aware of being covered under COBRA, as far as I know, I'm covered through one of my parent's health insurance. I'll be turning 25 later this year if that's relevant. I work full time and could get on my employer's insurance but I don't because my parent's plan is better and I have 2 younger siblings anyway. I'm reasonablely sure I have never worked for this company.

So what should I do? I'm guessing now is a good time to check one of my free credit reports ...could it be a case of identity theft even if it's been sent to an old address? And if nothing fishy turns up in one of my 3 free reports...where do I go from there? Should I try and contact the company and say...what exactly?

Any advice would be very much appreciated! Thanks!
posted by driedmango to Grab Bag (13 answers total)
I think it's unlikely to be identity theft. It's more likely that a company you used to work for changed its name or merged with another company or administers its benefits through a related company that has a different name than what you knew it by. I mean, if you're only "reasonably sure" you've never worked for that company, then it could be possible you worked for them at some point, right?

It's understandable that you would not be aware of being covered under COBRA. That's the purpose of the notification letter, to notify people that they're eligible for COBRA if they want it. Here are some basics on why people might receive a COBRA notification letter (tl;dr scroll down to "qualifying events").

In your shoes, I would give Ceridian the SSN they require, and find out why they sent the letter, from the horse's mouth. I would also find out for sure what health insurance is covering me, and exactly what it covers. Take a look at your parent's plan and your employer's plan and the COBRA plan you're being offered, and make your own decision about which one is the best plan for you.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:25 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm open to the possibility that I could have worked for a company that has been acquired/bought out/changed names. The company is located in Milwaukee and I am on the east coast. It's a property management company and to my knowledge, I have never worked for a property management company, again, to my knowledge. I know all of my previous employers and the only two that stand out as being possible candidates are the last 2 temp agencies I was with.

And for further clarification, I am under my parent's health insurance (a HMO plan), an active decision on my part after I started at my current employer and looked at their plan. I am not aware of being under COBRA. The letter states it's a notice of continuation of coverage. I am not sure why I would even be offered COBRA if I already have insurance and am already employed, and have been for nearly over a year.
posted by driedmango at 7:47 PM on August 3, 2014

No way: I wouldn't give anyone my SSN. I would try more numbers to get down to the bottom of it.

Is it this company? They appear to handle company benefits. If so, I would try their main office or other different office numbers to try to speak to a human -- and if there's any sort of reference number on the correspondence, I would have that handy. It could very well be on the up and up, but I would be freaked out to enter my secure personal info into some nameless system without knowing why.
posted by mochapickle at 7:55 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could it be possible that the company in question was looking for the address of someone with YOURNAME and just got the wrong person (and thus wrong address)?

My guess is that if you actually called up, gave your SSN they would say sorry we got the wrong YOURNAME...

Personally I would call the number, get the automated system and then type in an incorrect SSN. Eventually it will send you to a human...
posted by NoDef at 8:10 PM on August 3, 2014

I worked for Ceridian as a CSR in their COBRA dept. several years ago. Your SSN won't go anywhere- as long as it IS Ceridian that you're calling (don't just call the # on the notice, look up Ceridian's COBRA admin #). They would've gotten your SSN, name and address from the company they are contracted with. This is their standard operating procedure for verifying identity. HIPAA is a HUGE deal for Ceridian and, as a side benefit, also helps to protect your identity.

On preview, even if you got a human by putting in an incorrect SSN, they would still request it to verify identity (based on their procedures as of 9yrs ago).
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:15 PM on August 3, 2014

You should ask your parents if one of them has had a change of employment status you should know about. That seems like step 1.
posted by alms at 8:28 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

The letter states it's a notice of continuation of coverage.
Not quite. You said it is "General Notice of Continuation Coverage Rights Under Cobra" - I'm guessing that it is not a notice of coverage but rather a form letter telling you that you have the right to purchase coverage under COBRA law.

I know that the one time I got this letter, I nearly threw it out because it came from a company that I had never heard of but it was actually the legitimate COBRA offer related to the health insurance that I had just lost due to quitting my job.

It is possible that the letter is a mistake but you don't want to ignore this. You should either call the company (and just press buttons until you get a human) or call your insurance or at least your parents or do both/all three. (I thick your own insurance would have hand it might not show up right away if its not terminated yet. so be cautious.
posted by metahawk at 8:54 PM on August 3, 2014

You are not covered under COBRA, based on the title of the letter you've posted here.
"General Notice of Continuation Coverage Rights Under Cobra".
COBRA costs money. If you, or someone, isn't paying it, you're not covered.

If you have health insurance paid for by your parents employer, I would check with their HR to make sure you haven't been accidentally disenrolled. Ending of insurance by an employer triggers a COBRA eligibility notification. (I've seen it happen, especially with the insurance craziness that's going on right now.). That would be my first concern.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:01 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do what SLC mom says. Ask your parents if anything about their insurance coverage has changed. If you are about to "age off" their plan it may have triggered the letter. Otherwise, COBRA letters aren't sent out unless there is a change in your eligibility with the insurance policy (generally...there are always exceptions to the rule). It is usually related to canceling a policy, leaving a job, getting a new job, or being added to someone else's insurance plan.

Check with parents, then call Ceredian and see if you can get somewhere without giving your entire SSN until you feel comfortable otherwise.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:27 PM on August 3, 2014

Thanks everyone,

The company Ceridian sent the letter on behalf of, is not from either of my parent's employer. One has worked for 20+ years at employer and the other 5+ years at their employer; step 1 was covered. Parents do not recognize this company and their employment status has not changed.

I definitely see that it can be possible that I've aged off and triggered some kind of COBRA eligibility notification. I will call my insurance to check and see if 25 is their age phase out, although I remember being told it was 26, back when I was 22/23. And I'll try a different Ceridian number as well to speak to a human. But...

I am mostly just puzzled as to why it's coming from a company that I and my parents don't recognize (and consequently, have never worked for), and to my old address too.
posted by driedmango at 8:48 AM on August 4, 2014

Per this site (and model letter), the General Notice of Continuation Coverage Rights Under COBRA is sent when you become eligible for a plan that is covered under COBRA - not when you actually have the option to elect COBRA coverage. That is, it is sent when you start a job, not when you leave it.

I'd bet this is an administrative snafu related to the temp work (in my experience, they are a mess paperwork-wise). Or, it's possible you recently became eligible for the temp agency's health care plan after working X hours in a one year period (which is a common model for temp benefits). I would call Ceridian from their published number (not the notice); I wouldn't be concerned with giving my social in this case, but you can probably get them to look up the record based on your address and name if you push hard enough.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:00 AM on August 4, 2014

Made the calls. Still covered under current health insurance and will be covered until I'm 26. It seems the Ceridian representative also did not know why I received this letter, although I'm not sure how she could have known who I was since I didn't give her my SSN.

Still wondering how this company that I've never worked for (or my parents) got my information.
posted by driedmango at 9:56 AM on August 4, 2014

FWIW, there is a lot of outsourcing in the benefits world. An employer might outsource their whole benefits dept, or, more likely, just COBRA administration. Insurance carriers outsource little pieces of their business all over the place. Getting something from a company whose name you don't recognize is very possible, as is getting spam from a company trying to benefit from the confusion.

It's also possible that a small company, like a temp agency, will do business under one name (a DBA), but payroll and benefits will appear to come from another which is the actual legal entity.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:32 AM on August 4, 2014

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