The past few years have brought the issue of health insurance coverage to the forefront of many people's minds. Because the great majority of workers are covered under a group insurance plans negotiated by their employers, coverage is, for many Oklahoma workers, inextricably intertwined with their jobs. But what happens when a person loses his or her job? Does he or she lose not only wages, but health insurance also?
In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. Among other things, this law requires that employers with 20 or more employees offer a temporary extension of coverage at the group rate to employees under certain circumstances where they would otherwise lose that coverage. This extension of coverage applies to the employee's family members as well. The major difference in this continuing coverage for most former employees is that the premiums are more expensive because the employer is no longer covering part of the cost.
There are specific circumstances in which employees are eligible for COBRA benefits and electing to take them is voluntary. Indeed, since the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there may be other, less expensive alternatives available through the state or federal exchanges to employees who have lost their jobs. However, COBRA is still available in many cases, and workers may want to carefully consider electing such coverage if notified of their eligibility.
It is important to remember that not all losses of health coverage will make one eligible for COBRA benefits. Anyone who wants more information about his or her rights as an employee or former employee may wish to consider consulting an experienced Oklahoma employment attorney.