Labor Department rule changes coming for job health coverage

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), employers are required to provide continuation of group health coverage for a specified amount of time to employees and their dependents who lose benefits involuntarily through such “qualifying events” as termination of employment, divorce, change in employment status, or disability. After the U.S. Department of Labor issued proposed new amendments to COBRA notice requirements, The Oklahoman turned to employee benefits attorney Brandon Long for an explanation.

“The proposed amendments are intended to align the COBRA notice requirements with the Affordable Care Act so that individuals who lose coverage under their employer’s plan and qualify for COBRA understand that they have the option to buy COBRA coverage or coverage the new ACA Health Insurance Marketplace,” said Long. He also recommended that employers update the language in their COBRA election notices and COBRA general notices to properly satisfy their obligations under the law.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is giving COBRA participants and beneficiaries a one-time special window to enroll in coverage through the ACA marketplace. “Employers aren’t required to notify these individuals about this special enrollment opportunity, but they may want to in order to try to reduce their COBRA costs,” he said. The special enrollment period expires on July 1, 2014.