Since 1985, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, better known as COBRA, has been providing assistance to workers who have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance because of a job termination or other qualifying events. As American workers and businesses continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, recent executive and legislative action has increased the effectiveness of COBRA to help unemployed people maintain both physical and financial health throughout the emergency.

COBRA basics

Employers are required to offer COBRA benefits if they employed 20 or more employees on more than 50 percent of their typical business days in the previous calendar year and have a group health plan. Most of the group health plans offered to employees are subject to the law and must also be offered to COBRA qualified beneficiaries. Some common examples include:

  • Medical, dental, vision, and prescription plans.
  • Medical flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).
  • Employee assistance plans (EAPs) providing medical care.

COBRA benefits extend to employees or former employees covered by the group health plan, the spouse or former spouse of a covered employee, and the dependent children of a covered employee.

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