COBRA Continuation

Provider Type

  • Physicians
  • Participating Physician Groups (PPG)
  • Hospitals

Required Responses to Provider Inquiries Regarding Coverage

A qualified beneficiary may take up to 60 days to elect Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) continuation coverage from the day that the COBRA election notice is mailed to the qualified beneficiary or the date of the qualifying event, whichever is later. During this election period, a qualified beneficiary may seek health services. Participating providers following eligibility verification procedures may contact the plan to determine if the qualified beneficiary has coverage.

Health plans are required to provide a complete response to provider inquiries regarding a qualified beneficiary's right to coverage during the COBRA election period and during the grace period for COBRA premium payments. Responses must include information on retroactive reinstatement or termination of coverage in accordance with the beneficiary's election and payment status.

Election Period Requirements

Each qualified beneficiary has a period of time, called the election period, in which to elect COBRA continuation coverage. The election period is the later of:

  • 60 days following the date the qualifying event would cause the qualified beneficiary to lose coverage
  • 60 days following the date the notice is provided to the qualified beneficiary of the right to elect COBRA continuation coverage

To elect coverage, the qualified beneficiary must submit a request for continuation coverage to the employer sponsor of the prior plan.

Complete Responses During an Election Period

Under COBRA regulations, it is not sufficient for a plan to respond to a provider's inquiry about eligibility by merely stating that the individual is or is not covered. Additional explanation must be made regarding the qualified beneficiary's right to coverage in accordance with the beneficiary's election and payment status.

If a health plan's eligibility roster lists a qualified beneficiary who has not yet made a COBRA election as an active member, the plan's responses to provider inquiries must include the statements:

  • The individual is a COBRA-qualified beneficiary with the right to elect and pay for continued coverage.
  • The individual's coverage is subject to retroactive termination if the COBRA premium payment is not made.
  • If the election and payment are made on time, coverage is reinstated retroactively to the date of the qualifying event (or loss of coverage date, if different)

Health Net's standard coverage considers a qualified beneficiary who has not yet made a COBRA election to be not covered or ineligible.

Grace Period Requirements

The grace period is the time between the day that the qualified beneficiary elects COBRA continuation coverage and the day that the premium payment is made. Under the COBRA regulations, health plans are prohibited from requiring payment of any premium prior to 45 days after the date of the COBRA election.

Complete Responses During a Grace Period

Once a qualified beneficiary has elected COBRA, he or she has 45 days to submit the first payment. Upon receipt of the application, the member's information is entered in to the system and he or she is enrolled as active. If the member's payment is not received within the 45 days, the member is not eligible for COBRA coverage.