With the news that unemployment claims soared to a record high of 3.3 million last week, many are trying to figure out where the next paycheck will come from, how they're going to pay their next bill, and what happens if they get sick. One issue that is front of mind for many is whether to elect COBRA health care coverage and how to do so.
COBRA provides workers and their families with the right to continue health care coverage for a specific period of time after certain circumstances arise, such as job loss, a reduction in hours, death, divorce, and some other events. COBRA must be offered to covered employees whether the employee is voluntarily or involuntarily separated from the employer, with limited exceptions. Generally, group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the prior year must offer COBRA benefits.
Compliance with COBRA can be tricky. Specific notices of the right to elect COBRA are required to be provided to the former employee. These notices must contain specific and understandable information, such as how to elect COBRA, how much it costs, who to pay, and one's options. Generally,individuals must be given an election period of at least 60 days to choose whether to elect continuation coverage.
Covered employees who don't receive a notice, or who receive a notice that does not comply with the COBRA requirements, can pursue legal claims for these violations. So too can other covered individuals, such as family members, since COBRA requires that they receive the notice as well. When a violation occurs, damages can include up to $110 per day from the date of violation, as well as any out-of-pocket damages (such as medical bills not covered by insurance) and attorneys' fees. Cases are filed everyday across the country for COBRA violations, ranging from individual actions for one individual who did not receive a notice or a compliant notice, to class actions for large groups whose rights were violated.
If you haven't received a COBRA notice, or you have questions about a COBRA notice you've received, feel free to reach out to the employment attorneys at Weiner & Sand LLC.