Special 60-Day Enrollment Period in the Marketplace for COBRA Participants

Important Notice Regarding COBRA Continuation Coverage and Health Insurance Marketplace

On May 1, 2014 The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a special 60-Day Marketplace enrollment period for individuals eligible and/or enrolled in COBRA as of May 2, 2014.  These individuals have until July 1, 2014 to select Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) in the Marketplace.  This is a one-time special open enrollment for current COBRA Qualified Beneficiaries and will not be available after July 1, 2014.

The special 60-day enrollment period was added because HHS was concerned that persons eligible for COBRA and their qualified beneficiaries may have had insufficient information to understand that they cannot voluntarily drop COBRA and enroll in the Marketplace outside of Marketplace open enrollment or when their COBRA expired.   Their concern stemmed from an opinion that former Model COBRA Continuation Coverage Election Notices (Model Election Notices) published by the Department of Labor and other documents provided by employers did not sufficiently address Marketplace options for persons eligible for COBRA.

Affected individuals have 60 days from the date that HHS issued the bulletin, that is, through July 1, 2014, to select QHPs in the Marketplace. This new opportunity has the potential to help individuals and their beneficiaries on COBRA enroll in plans on the Marketplace that may be more affordable than COBRA.

These individuals should contact the Marketplace call center at 1-800- 318-2596 to activate the special enrollment period. They should inform the Marketplace call center that they are calling about their COBRA benefits and the Marketplace special enrollment period.   Once it is determined that they are eligible for the special enrollment period, they can view all plans available to them and continue the enrollment process over the phone or online through creating an account on healthcare.gov.

At this point employers are not required to send COBRA Qualified Beneficiaries a notice of the special enrollment period.  However, many employers will choose to do so.

Article written by: Janet Palcko of NEO Administration