7 little-known facts about COBRA

3. Children who 'age out' of their parent's plan can get COBRA coverage

Usually, children who are dependents of their parents are able to get health insurance coverage through their parent's plan.

This coverage lasts until the child reaches a certain age (generally 19, or even older for full-time college students), loses his or her dependent status, and "ages out" of coverage on the parent's health insurance plan, according to Sam Gibbs, a senior vice president with Mountain View, Calif.-based eHealthInsurance.

However, aging out of a parent's health plan can count as a qualifying event under COBRA. That makes the child eligible for the COBRA coverage attached to his or her parent's plan, Gibbs says.

4. Divorced or widowed spouses (and children) of beneficiaries can still get coverage

A legal separation or divorce means you won't be covered under your former spouse's employer insurance plan. However, these circumstances (as well as the death of the insured employee) count as a "qualifying event" for COBRA, so you could still receive benefits, says Gibbs.

You might be responsible for insurance payments, however.

5. You can change your mind

Even if you waive COBRA coverage in writing, you can change your mind and accept it later. You just have to make sure you accept the coverage during the election period, which is generally 60 days, says Gibbs.

6. If you go on Medicare, this is a 'qualifying event' for your spouse

The spouses of employees who qualify for Medicare can still receive COBRA coverage, Ellis says.

"If an employee retires and goes on Medicare, but their spouse is not of retirement age, the spouse can lose coverage" under the employer's group plan, Ellis says.

However, the employee's switch from private insurance to Medicare is a qualifying event, which means the spouse can then receive insurance coverage under COBRA, Ellis says.

7. Your specific health plan could still change

Even though COBRA is "continuation" coverage, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll still get the same benefits (with access to the same doctors, for example) that you've always had.

That's because if your former employer changes the health insurance plan for their current employees, your COBRA coverage would be for that new plan, not the old one you are familiar with.

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