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From Buffalo to the five boroughs, New Yorkers work hard. But if your employment ends and you depend on your job for health insurance, COBRA can replace your employer-sponsored health plans. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about COBRA in New York. 

What is COBRA?

COBRA was born nearly four decades ago with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985. This legislation created COBRA, which lets former employees extend their health insurance coverage following termination of employment. As of 2023, this coverage maximum is set at 18 months.

This COBRA law allows you and your dependents to retain the health insurance coverage you received through your employer, including dental and vision, even after your employment terminates. It’s important to note that COBRA will cost more because your employer will no longer pay for part of your health insurance coverage.

In New York, New York State Continuation Coverage works similarly to COBRA. The state law applies to New Yorkers who wouldn’t be eligible for COBRA because their employer had too few employees. It also grants another 18 months of coverage for workers eligible for COBRA, providing 36 months of coverage in New York following the end of their position. 

COBRA coverage can also be obtained due to various life circumstances, such as legal separation or a child aging out of dependency. These are called qualifying events.

How does COBRA work?

COBRA is generally available when your employment ends or you experience a qualifying event. If you have employer-sponsored health insurance and your job ends, either through resignation or termination, you are usually eligible for COBRA coverage. However, you will probably not be eligible for COBRA if you were fired for gross misconduct, like if you did something illegal on the job. 

Other qualifying life events may make you eligible for COBRA, such as if you divorced a spouse and were dependent on their health insurance policy. Or, if your job status changes from full-time to part-time and you subsequently lose health coverage, you are eligible for COBRA.

The size of the company you worked for matters: federal COBRA is available if your employer had 20 employees or more, but New Yorkers are eligible for state continuation if your employer had a staff of less than 20. 

There is a limited timeframe to enroll in COBRA or state continuation: 60 days following the termination of employment. If you do not receive a COBRA notice, contact your previous employer ASAP. While the insurance offered through COBRA is typically the same as that provided during employment, you may have some flexibility to switch health plans. 

Once you have signed up, you and your dependents can have federal COBRA insurance for 18 months after your job ends. At that point, New Yorkers can agree to state continuation for another 18 months.  

How much does COBRA cost in New York?

In New York — and most other states — COBRA rates change annually. Nationally, COBRA rates are calculated to be 102% of your health plan’s premium. The extra 2% is an administrative fee. 

New York publishes its COBRA premium rates as weekly rates, not monthly.

PlanIndividual plan weekly ratesFamily plan weekly rates
Aetna EPO$594.00$1,811.29
Empire Blue Access Gated EPO$183.95$494.69
Empire EPO$316.41$796.75
GHI HMO$167.87$447.77
HIP HMO Gold Preferred Plan Standard$27.09$51.04
HIP POS$345.42$846.29
MetroPlus Gold Standard$31.97$58.41

COBRA is only one option for health insurance. Generally, though, you can find less expensive health insurance options. 

How to enroll in COBRA in New York

Once your employment in New York ends, you have 60 days to sign up for COBRA if you are eligible. The law requires notice to be mailed to you about COBRA. If you don’t receive any details about COBRA enrollment, contact your employer right away. 

Once you sign up for COBRA, you will begin to pay your premiums. Expect these to be significantly more expensive than the portion of your premium you paid before, because now you are paying the full amount. 

Your COBRA coverage will stop before the 18 months (or 36 months) are up if you sign up for other health insurance, stop paying, or if your former employer stops providing health coverage for its workers. 

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Barry Eitel
Contributing Researcher


Barry Eitel is a content writer and journalist focused on insurance, small business and finance. He has researched and written about personal finance since 2012, with a special focus on entrepreneurship, freelancing and other small business operations. His writing on insurance and small business has been featured in 7x7, Brit + Co, Intuit Quickbooks, Bankrate, Policygenius and Lendio.