6 Steps to Get COBRA Continuation Insurance

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) continuation insurance is one option for health insurance if you leave, or lose your job. You're able to get the group rates offered by your employer, except you pay more money because your employer no longer contributes to the plan. When compared to individual health insurance, it's often more comprehensive in benefits, and costs less. If you, or someone in your family, has a preexisting condition, you won't be denied COBRA insurance coverage. To obtain COBRA continuation insurance, follow these 6 steps.

Step 1: Get Plan Administrator's Information

Contact someone in charge of human resources at your previous place of employment, and ask them for the name and contact information for the group health care plan's administrator. You can explain that you need it because you would like to get COBRA continuation insurance. Your employer has 30 days to notify the administrator of the health plan when you're no longer employed, or work fewer hours. Contacting your employer can help make the process go faster.

Step 2: Notify Group Health Plan Administrator

Once you get the group health plan administrator's contact information, call them and tell them that you would like to receive COBRA continuation insurance. The plan administrator will receive two notices, one from you and the other from your former employer. The administrator will prepare a written notice within 14 days of notification, usually in response to the employer's notification. The notice will give you an opportunity to elect COBRA continuation insurance.

Step 3: Elect Coverage

Follow the instructions on the notice to elect COBRA continuation insurance. The plan administrator who issued the notice can assist you and answer questions if you need further help. You have 60 days to elect coverage, and therefore it's important to make your selection as early as possible.

Step 4: Extended Election Deadline

Congress may pass bills from time to time that extend the 60-day requirement to elect COBRA continuation insurance. For example, if you were laid off or fired between September 1, 2008 and February 16, 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 gives you an opportunity to elect COBRA insurance, even though you missed the 60-day deadline.

Step 5: File a COBRA Insurance Claim

Each health plan has its own rules and procedures for filing a COBRA continuation insurance claim. Check the Summary Plan Description, which is included in the handbook you received explaining your health care benefits. If you no longer have a copy, ask the plan administrator for written instructions on filing a claim.

Step 6: Appeal a Denial

The plan administrator is required to accept or deny within 90 days of receiving your claim. If your claim is denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal. The denial letter will include the reasons why your claim was denied, so that you know how to defend your claim. COBRA continuation insurance lasts for 18 months. However, you can get an extension for disability and other reasons.