Unlike COBRA, benefits under this type of policy do not automatically terminate after a limited time, and may vary from the City's "basic" benefits package in both the scope of benefits and in cost.
- COBRA Eligibility
The following are eligible for continuation of coverage under COBRA:
Employees Not Eligible for Medicare: Employees whose health and welfare fund coverages are terminated due to a reduction in hours of employment or termination of employment (for reasons other than gross misconduct). Termination of employment includes unpaid leaves of absence of any kind. More information concerning situations involving termination due to gross misconduct is available from your agency benefits representative.
Spouses/Domestic Partners Not Eligible for Medicare: Spouses/Domestic Partners who lose coverage for any of the following reasons: 1) death of the City employee or retiree; 2) termination of the employee's City employment (for reasons other than gross misconduct); 3) loss of health coverage due to a reduction in employee's hours of employment; 4) divorce from the City employee or retiree; 5) termination of domestic partnership with the City employee or retiree; 6) retirement of the employee. (See Retirees below.)
Dependent Children Not Eligible for Medicare: Dependent children who lose coverage for any of the following reasons: 1) death of a covered parent (the City employee or retiree); 2) the termination of a covered parent's employment (for reasons other than gross misconduct); 3) loss of health coverage due to the covered parent’s reduction in hours of employment; 4) the dependent ceases to be a "dependent child" under the terms of the Health Benefits Program; 5) retirement of the covered parent. (See Retirees below.)
Retirees: Retirees who are not eligible to receive City-paid health care coverage (see Eligibility) and their dependents (if not Medicare-eligible) may continue the benefits received as an active employee for a period of 18 months at 102% of the group cost under COBRA. Retirees eligible for Medicare should refer to the Medicare-Eligibles section. Retirees whose welfare fund benefits would be reduced or eliminated at retirement are eligible to maintain those benefits under COBRA for 18 months at 102% of the cost to the union welfare fund. Contact the union welfare fund for the premium amounts and benefits available. A list of welfare fund administrators can be obtained from City payroll or personnel offices.
Note: Individuals covered under another group plan are not eligible for COBRA continuation benefits unless the other group plan contains a pre-existing condition exclusion. However, these people may be able to purchase certain welfare fund benefits. For more information, contact the appropriate fund.
[back to top]
- COBRA Periods of Continuation
If benefits are lost due to termination of employment or reduction of work schedule, the maximum period for which COBRA can continue coverage is 18 months. This period will be measured from the loss of coverage under the City plan.
However, if a beneficiary becomes disabled (as determined under Title 11 or XVI of the Social Security Act) during the first 60 days of the 18-month COBRA continuation period, coverage can be extended for an additional 11 months after the end of the original continuation period. Notification must be made to the plan administrator within 60 days after the Social Security Administration's determination of disability and before the end of the initial 18-month COBRA continuation period. The plan administrator must also be notified within 30 days if the Social Security Administration determines that the disability no longer exists.
The otherwise applicable COBRA premium must be paid during any extension period (i.e., 150% of the premium for the same coverage for similarly situated employees or family members).
If dependents lose benefits due to death, divorce, domestic partnership termination, or loss of coverage due to the Medicare-eligibility of the contract holder, or due to the loss of dependent child status, the maximum period for which COBRA can continue coverage is 36 months. This period will be measured from the loss of coverage under the City plan.
The definition of a qualified beneficiary includes a child born to or adopted by certain qualified beneficiaries during the COBRA continuation period. Only if you are a qualified beneficiary by reason of having been an employee, a child born to or adopted by you during the COBRA continuation period will become a qualified beneficiary in his or her own right. This means that if you should lose your COBRA coverage, your new child may have an independent right to continue his or her coverage for the remainder of the otherwise applicable continuation period. However, you must cover your new child as a dependent within 30 days of the child's birth or adoption in order to have this added protection.
Any increase in COBRA premium due to this change must be paid during the period for which the coverage is in effect.
Continuation of coverage can never exceed 36 months in total, regardless of the number of events that relate to a loss in coverage. Coverage during the continuation period will terminate if the enrollee fails to make timely premium payments or becomes enrolled in another group health plan (unless the new plan contains a pre-existing condition exclusion).
[back to top]
- COBRA Notification Responsibilities
Under the law, the employee or family member has the responsibility of notifying the City agency payroll or personnel office and the applicable welfare fund within 60 days of the death, divorce, domestic partnership termination, or change of address of an employee, or of a child's losing dependent status. Retirees and/or the family members must notify the Health Benefits Program and the applicable welfare fund within 60 days in the case of death of the retiree or the occurrence of any of the events mentioned above.
Employees who are totally disabled (as determined by Social Security) up to 60 days after the date of termination of employment or reduction of hours must notify their health plan of the disability. The notice must be provided within 60 days of Social Security's determination and before the end of the 18-month continuation period. If Social Security ever determines that the individual is no longer disabled, the former employee must also notify the health plan of this. This notice must be provided within 30 days from Social Security's final determination.
When a qualifying event (such as an employee's death, termination of employment, or reduction in hours) occurs, the employee and family will receive a COBRA information packet from the City agency describing continuation coverage options.
[back to top]
Election of COBRA Continuation
To elect COBRA continuation of health coverage, the eligible person must complete a "COBRA - Continuation of Coverage Application." Employees and/or eligible family members can obtain application forms from their agency payroll or personnel office. Retirees' eligible family members can obtain application forms by contacting the Health Benefits Program. Please contact the welfare fund if you wish to purchase its benefits.
Eligible persons electing COBRA continuation coverage must do so within 60 days of the date on which they receive notification of their rights, and must pay the initial premium within 45 days of their election. Premium payments will be made on a monthly basis. Payments after the initial payment will have a 30-day grace period.
COBRA Transfer Opportunities
Former employees and dependents who elect COBRA continuation coverage are entitled to the same benefits and rights as employees. Therefore, COBRA enrollees may take part in the annual Transfer Period. Dependents of retirees enrolled in COBRA continuation coverage will continue to receive the same transfer opportunities available to retirees: once-in-a-lifetime transfer (if not already used), and transfer during the normal Transfer Period for retirees.
Individuals eligible for COBRA may also transfer when a change of address allows or eliminates access to a health plan that requires residency in a particular Zip Code.
Application forms to be used during the Transfer Period should be obtained from the COBRA enrollee's current health plan. Applications should be returned to the current health plan, which will forward enrollment information to the new plan. Be sure to elect a primary care physician for each family member if selecting an HMO that requires you to do so. These transfers will become effective on January 1, unless otherwise specified.
City agencies do not handle COBRA enrollee transfers, or process any future changes such as adding dependents. All future transactions will be handled by the health plan in which the person eligible for COBRA is enrolled.
[back to top]
C. Disability Benefits
Those who are totally disabled because of an injury or illness on the date of termination remain covered for that disability up to a maximum of 18 additional months for the GHI-CBP/EBCBS plan and up to 12 months for the HMO or POS plans. GHI Type C/EBCBS provides only 31 days of additional coverage. This extension of benefits applies only to the disabled person and only covers the disabling condition. Under the GHI/Blue Cross plans, if a subscriber is hospitalized at the time of termination, hospital coverage is extended only to the end of the hospitalization. Contact the specific health plan for details.
[back to top]
Special Notes for Medicare-Eligibles
Those who have lost coverage because of termination of employment or reduction in hours of the participant are eligible under the City's Medicare-supplemental plans for up to 18 months after the original qualifying event, or — in the case of loss of coverage for all other reasons – up to 36 months.
If a COBRA qualifying event occurs and you lose coverage, but you and/or your dependents are Medicare-eligible, you may continue coverage by using the COBRA Continuation of Coverage application form. You should indicate your Medicare claim number and effective dates where indicated on the form for Medicare-eligible family members. If you and/or your dependents are about to become eligible for Medicare, and are already continuing coverage under COBRA, inform your health plan of Medicare eligibility for you and/or your dependents at least 30 days prior to date of Medicare eligibility. COBRA-enrolled dependents of the person who becomes Medicare-eligible will be able to continue their COBRA coverage, whether or not the Medicare-eligible person enrolls in the Medicare-Supplemental coverage. The COBRA continuation period for dependents will be unaffected by the decision of the Medicare-eligible employee or retiree.
Contact your health plan for information about other Medicare-Supplemental plans that are offered; some other health plans may be better suited to your needs and/or less costly than the plan that is provided under the City's contract.
[back to top]