New Model COBRA Notices Incorporate Insurance Marketplace Information

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued proposed regulations on May 7, 2014, updating the model general notice and election notice required by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). 

COBRA requires sponsors of employer group health plans to provide the notices to participants to inform them of their rights to continuation coverage. The general notice must be provided to employees and covered spouses within 90 days of their participation in the plan. The election notice must be provided within 14 days of the plan sponsor receiving notice of the occurrence of a COBRA-qualifying event. Employers are not required to use the model notices, but by doing so, they can be confident that they have satisfied the DOL’s COBRA notice requirements if the model notices are properly completed with the employer’s information.

The updated model notices notify individuals who are eligible for COBRA continuation coverage that they may choose to purchase health care coverage through the health insurance marketplace instead and direct readers to obtain more information at www.healthcare.gov.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there was concern that “employers did not address, or did not sufficiently address, marketplace options for persons eligible for COBRA and COBRA beneficiaries” in the previous version of the model notice issued last October. Because qualified beneficiaries under COBRA may not have had sufficient information to understand that their enrollment period would expire at the same time as the open enrollment period in the marketplace (March 31, 2014), HHS is providing an additional 60-day special enrollment period, or until July 1, 2014, for qualified beneficiaries to purchase qualified coverage.

Employers should review the notices they currently use to ensure that they contain all of the required information and consider whether to start using the updated model notices. Click here to access the revised model general notice, and here for the revised model election notice. In addition, new guidance was issued in an FAQ on the Affordable Care
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