When COBRA covers dependents

HEALTH MATTERS

October 02, 1990|By Peter H. Frank

Q**Can a dependent who is no longer eligible for health coverage through a family group policy sign up for COBRA if he is working part-time only?

What if the person is turned down for health insurance at a new workplace because of a health problem?

*A**You can use COBRA whether you are working part-time, full-time or not at all. The fact that you have a job does not matter.

For those not familiar with COBRA, it is an acronym for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It refers to a portion of the 1986 law that allows employees to continue their health insurance after leaving their employer. The law applies only to companies with at least 20 employees and was intended as a means to provide health insurance for people who are between jobs.

By paying the full amount of the premium -- the portion the employee pays plus the amount the company was picking up -- the former employee can continue coverage for up to 18 months in most cases.

Dependents of a former employee who become too old to be covered under the parent's family policy can also use COBRA. A dependent can sign up for an individual policy under the same group coverage as the parent. The coverage lasts up to 36 months, and the period begins from the start of the original COBRA coverage, not from the point at which they are no longer considered dependents.

Thanks to an amendment to COBRA that took effect this year you may continue your coverage under COBRA and have a second insurance policy at the same time. This second policy is considered your primary insurance and must pay for any medical costs before those charges are applied to the COBRA policy.

This is useful only if your new policy has a restriction on it.In that case, the COBRA insurance would pay costs not covered by the employer-sponsored insurance.

If this dependent is able to get into his company's insurance plan, he should do it. If he has a medical history that would require him to wait before certain coverage kicks in, he might want to sign up for the company-sponsored plan early. This way he would have the COBRA insurance to fall back on while the other plan's exclusion is in force.

***

In one of the answers previously given about the length of time a person is entitled to continue insurance coverage under COBRA, I failed to point out that Maryland has a law that extends the 36-month period set by federal law for divorced spouses. Under Maryland law, the coverage period for a person who loses his/her coverage because of a divorce may stay as an individual member of the insurance plan indefinitely. The eligibility ends when the person obtains other insurance, remarries or stops paying the premiums.

*Peter Frank is a business reporter for The Sun.

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