As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic record numbers of employees have left their jobs. Many people quit their jobs in the “Great Resignation of 2021.” Others have had to leave their positions due to layoffs. But regardless of the reason, your employer’s health plan administrator must provide you written notice of your right to continue your medical coverage.
What is COBRA?
COBRA requires that an employer provide an employee with the option to continue coverage under the employer’s health plan after the occurrence of a “qualifying event” that would otherwise end the employee’s health insurance coverage. See 29 U.S.C. § 1161.
COBRA further requires that an employer notify the administrator of the group health care plan within 30 days of a “qualifying event.”
The health plan administrator then has 14 days to notify the former employer (or beneficiary) of his/her right to continue coverage. See 29 U.S.C. § 1166(a)(4).
A qualified COBRA beneficiary may elect continuation coverage within 60 days of the qualifying event or of notice of the qualifying event, whichever is later.
What are the “qualifying events” for COBRA?
The so-called “qualifying events” that trigger your employer’s obligation to notify you about your right to continue your health insurance include:
- Death of the covered employee
- Termination or voluntary resignation of employment
- Reduction of hours
- Divorce or legal separation
- An employee becoming eligible for Medicare
Under COBRA, a qualifying employee or beneficiary can continue their health insurance for 18 to 36 months, depending upon the reason for qualification.
Can I join a class action if my employer fails to notify me about COBRA?
Failing to notify an employee of his or her right to continue health insurance is a serious violation of the law. As the court in Lincoln Gen. Hosp. v. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Nebraska, 963 F.2d 1136, 1139 (8th Cir.1992), put it:
“Providing appropriate notice is a key requirement under COBRA.”
You can file a lawsuit if your employer or plan administrator fails to provide you with timely notice of your right to continue health insurance under COBRA.
Are there penalties for failing to provide a COBRA notice?
Yes, and the penalties can be substantial.
Under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), a penalty of up to $110 per day may be imposed for failing to provide a COBRA notice. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1); 29 C.F.R. § 2560.502c-3.
In other words, if a plan administrator fails to provide the requisite COBRA notice, the court has the discretion to find the plan administrator personally liable to the participant for up to $110 a day from the date of the failure until the date of correction. In addition, ERISA permits courts to award reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs.
What should I do if I didn’t get a COBRA notice?
Edelson Lechtzin LLP is a national class action law firm with offices in Pennsylvania and California. In addition to cases involving employee benefits plans, our lawyers focus on class and collective litigation in cases alleging violations of the federal antitrust laws, securities and investment fraud, wage theft and unpaid overtime, consumer fraud, and dangerous and defective drugs and medical devices.