retirees, spouses, former spouses and dependent children may elect temporary continuation
of their health insurance coverage at the employer’s group rate. Individuals who qualify
under COBRA are required to pay the entire premium for coverage and may be charged a 2%
administrative fee each month. Group health plans for employers with 20 or more employees
are subject to COBRA. Employers of less than 20 employees are covered by the state “mini”
COBRA statute, the Small Group Health Insurance Act, Mass. Gen. L. c. 176J, § 9, which is
very similar to the federal COBRA law.
The typical COBRA beneficiary is usually eligible for group coverage during a
maximum of 18 months for qualifying events such as employment termination or reduction
in hours. Other qualifying events, or a second qualifying event during the initial coverage
period, may permit the beneficiary to receive coverage for a maximum of 36 months.
When a qualifying event occurs, the health plan administrator must provide a
COBRA notice to the employee and any covered beneficiaries regarding their rights to elect
COBRA coverage. Employers are required to notify their plan administrators within 30 days
after an employee’s termination or reduction in hours that causes the employee to lose health
benefits. Thereafter, the plan administrator is required to provide notice to individual
employees of their right to elect COBRA within 14 days after the plan administrator receives
notice from the employer of the qualifying event.
The Department of Labor has issued regulations that provide detailed information
regarding COBRA’s notice and election requirements, as well as a model election form that
may be sent to employees. The form may be found on the Department of Labor website:
www.dol.gov. The employer may choose to use its own form; however, the form must