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COVERED CALIFORNIA CREATES LIMITED SPECIAL-ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR THOSE 
COVERED BY COBRA

COBRA Enrollees Have 60 Days to Switch to an Exchange Plan; Move Is Expected to Save California Consumers Money on Health Insurance


Beginning Thursday, May 15, Covered California will launch a limited-time special-enrollment period for people who have COBRA health insurance, either Federal COBRA or Cal-COBRA, and would like to switch to an exchange plan.

People who have health coverage through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) will be eligible to shop for and buy coverage through Covered California from May 15 through July 15. The two-month window mirrors a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruling announced May 2 that allows COBRA enrollees to buy plans through the federal exchange up to July 1.

The federal policy for the COBRA special-enrollment period was approved amid concerns that notifications did not give consumers clear information about options in the new marketplace. HHS encouraged state exchanges to follow suit.

“COBRA coverage has given vital protection for nearly three decades to people who lost coverage from their employers, especially those who couldn’t get affordable insurance because of their age or a pre-existing condition,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, plans in the individual market could be preferable to COBRA coverage because of premium assistance and cost-sharing reductions, available only through the exchanges. For some people who have COBRA coverage, purchasing a plan in the Covered California marketplace during this special-enrollment period could save thousands of dollars a year.”

Under COBRA, individuals who experience a job loss can purchase the coverage they had through their employer but are responsible to pay the full cost. In some cases, individuals and families can purchase more affordable coverage in the health benefit exchanges.

“COBRA will continue to be a cornerstone of coverage for workers after a job loss, but it’s important for employees to know that there are options in the marketplace that could save them money,” Lee said.

This newest category of special enrollment joins a host of “qualifying life events” under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that allow consumers to get exchange coverage during a time when open enrollment is not available. Other events include losing coverage, having a child, getting married and moving.

COBRA enrollees, either on Federal COBRA or Cal-COBRA, who would like to take advantage of this limited special-enrollment period can apply at the Covered California website and select “Other Qualifying Event” during the special-enrollment application process.

In addition to special enrollment period opportunities for private health insurance plans, Medi-Cal enrollment for low-cost or no-cost health coverage continues year-round on the Covered California website. 

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