Many employers offer healthcare benefits to full-time workers and some who work limited hours. As a result, losing a job can affect a person’s ability to pay for essential medical care for themselves and their families.
Congress recognized the debilitating impact that this situation could have on families and enacted the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) to allow qualifying individuals to purchase health insurance through their former employer after specific qualifying life events.
If you are having difficulty obtaining post-employment healthcare coverage, a St. Louis COBRA lawyer can help. Let a member of our legal team explain federal and state COBRA laws and file a claim on your behalf to keep your health insurance.
COBRA allows most former employees to remain covered under an employer’s health insurance plan, but these individuals will usually have to pay more for it than they did while employed. Under COBRA, the former employee is responsible for the entire premium of his or her health insurance, including both the portion of the premium that he or she paid during employment and any portion that the employer paid. An employer may also charge a small administrative fee of an additional two percent of the premium.
For example, if during his or her employment an employee paid $300 per month, and the employer paid $700 per month for his or her health insurance, the employee would pay $1,000 per month for health insurance, and the former employer would pay nothing. The former employee will probably also have to pay an extra two percent of his or her premium as an administrative fee, which has been approved by federal law.
According to COBRA, employers with 20 or more workers are required to provide a departing employee with documents about COBRA offering him or her the choice to continue as a member of an employee health plan within 44 days of his or her termination date. Missouri Revisor of Statutes §376.428 extends this requirement to all workplaces with 19 or fewer employees.
Then, the former employee generally has up to 60 days to decide whether he or she wants COBRA coverage. Former employees are not required to elect coverage under COBRA. In fact, a former worker will not receive COBRA coverage unless he or she actively signs up for it and tenders payment.
If an individual does elect for post-employment healthcare benefits, COBRA coverage generally lasts for up to 18 months, after which the former employee will no longer be eligible for that health plan. However, certain circumstances, such as a continued disability, may allow for an extension of COBRA coverage. A St. Louis attorney can help former employees of a company understand whether they are entitled to COBRA coverage and how they can go about getting it.
A claim may arise under COBRA when a former employee cannot obtain COBRA benefits because they or the plan administrator does not send the necessary documents within 44 days or does not make the same benefits available to COBRA recipients that are available to current employees, among other violations. In addition, if an employee has been terminated as part of a company shutdown or mass layoff, his or her right to the value of lost health insurance benefits may be protected by the WARN Act.
Alternatively, parties who receive a denial or a sudden termination of their benefits also have the right to pursue a lawsuit alleging that an employer violated federal or state laws. A successful lawsuit could recover compensation in the amount of a person’s losses due to not having COBRA coverage as well as impose statutory penalties on an offending employer to prevent future violations of the law. A St. Louis COBRA attorney could help determine whether a lawsuit is practical and take the lead in filing complaints or demanding compensation on a former employee’s behalf.
The federal and state COBRA laws ensure that the former workers of many companies have the right to continue their employer-provided healthcare coverage. Qualifying workplaces have a duty under the law to offer this coverage and provide this option whenever applicable. Failure to do so could give you the right to pursue compensation.
A St. Louis COBRA lawyer may be able to help you. Our attorneys frequently negotiate improved COBRA benefits as part of a severance package or as benefits in employment agreements. We can also advise and counsel you on your entitlement to COBRA and other separation benefits. In addition, we counsel employers on what their responsibility is insofar as COBRA is concerned, with respect to deadlines, minimums, and the administration thereof. If it appears that a violation has occurred, our legal team can pursue fair compensation in and out of court. Call today to get started.