With full implementation of Obamacare looming – delays in the employer mandate aside – many in the HR world have been wondering whether health care reform will render COBRA obsolete.
The short answer: yes – and no.
Beginning Jan. 1, individuals who lose employer-provided coverage will have the choice of either purchasing COBRA coverage, or purchasing coverage through the exchanges. While COBRA only allows people to elect the coverage in which they were enrolled on the date they lost their job, the exchanges are meant to offer a range of options and coverage levels.
The premium subsidies that will be available to individuals with household incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level also are expected to make purchasing coverage through an exchange more attractive than paying for insurance through COBRA.
Individuals also might have met their out-of-pocket deductible costs with their employer, and it would be costly for them to switch to an exchange. Another reason for COBRA to stay relevant might be that people want to stick with existing health care providers.
Other points to consider: