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State-specific laws for COBRA
If you leave a job, federal law gives you the right to continue coverage through the employer's group health insurance plan at your own expense.
Known as COBRA - the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 - the law applies to employers with at least 20 workers. It was designed to protect employees and their dependents who lost employer-sponsored coverage because of job loss, divorce or death of the insured worker. (See "Know your COBRA rights.")
But don't count yourself out if you work for a small company. Forty states and the District of Columbia have passed similar "mini-COBRA" laws that apply to firms with fewer than 20 employees.
State laws vary among one another and from the federal law in the amount of time they let workers continue coverage as well as in restrictions on rates. Talk to your company's employee benefits professional about the rules for COBRA eligibility.
Remember, you pay the full premium to continue coverage through COBRA. You might find a more affordable option by shopping for your own plan through the government-run marketplace in your state or directly from an insurer, through an agent, or comparing health insurance quotes online.
Eligibility for "mini-COBRA" by state
Length of time eligible for COBRA
|District of Columbia||15 months|
|New Hampshire||36 months|
|New Jersey||36 months|
|New Mexico||6 months|
|New York||36 months|
|North Carolina||18 months|
|North Dakota||36 months|
|Rhode Island||18 months|
|South Carolina||6 months|
|South Dakota||36 months|
|West Virginia||18 months|
Other related state laws
- Connecticut: You can qualify for 30 months of COBRA if you lost your coverage because you were laid off or fired, took a leave of absence or your hours were cut.
- Florida: In some cases you can continue coverage for an additional 11 months - beyond the maximum normally allowed - if you are disabled.
- New Jersey: If you are disabled you may continue coverage until you are no longer disabled, under some circumstances.
- New Mexico: You could continue coverage indefinitely through the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance if you maintained coverage through the alliance for at least six months.
- North Dakota: COBRA continuation coverage lasts 39 weeks, except if you lost coverage because of divorce. After divorce, you can get up to 36 months of continuation coverage.
- Oklahoma: You qualify for an extra six months of coverage if you are pregnant or in a plan of surgery and have been covered under the group plan for at least six months.
- Oregon: Insurers can charge you 102 percent of the group rate if you lost coverage because of separation, divorce or death of the insured employee.
- South Dakota: After 18 months, the premium jumps to 150 percent of the group rate. If the employer terminates the policy, the insurer must offer continuation coverage for 12 months and charge you no more than 125 percent of the group rate.
- Virginia: Insurers can offer you continuation coverage or let you convert to an individual plan.
- Washington: State law does not mandate continuation coverage for group policies, but insurers must give employers the option for a continuation provision.
Source for chart and state-specific information: Kaiser Family Foundation, based on data as of June 1, 2013, and analysis by the Center on Health Insurance Reforms and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.