COBRA & Medicare
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, commonly known as COBRA, is a federal law that helps employees continue health care benefits for at least 18 months after losing eligibility. There are a number of qualifying events for COBRA including termination or reduction in working hours. When it comes to COBRA and Medicare, you can have both at the same time but there are several scenarios that can make that coordination confusing. Hopefully we can simplify a few of those situations and provide a few things to keep in mind if you have questions around this topic.
As previously mentioned, you can have COBRA and Medicare at the same time, but they do not coordinate the same way as employer coverage and Medicare. If you already have Medicare Part A or Part B when you become eligible for COBRA, you must still be allowed to enroll in COBRA. When you have COBRA, Medicare is usually primary, and COBRA is secondary. Some group insurance may have special rules that determine who is primary however, so it is always a good idea to refer to your specific COBRA plan documents.
If you become eligible for Medicare while you have COBRA, the COBRA coverage will typically end once you are enrolled into Medicare. Even though you will likely lose the COBRA coverage in this situation, you should still enroll in Part B when you first become eligible because you are not entitled to a Special Enrollment Period when your COBRA coverage ends, and COBRA is also not considered creditable coverage. If you were to delay enrolling in Part B in this situation, you will likely incur a late enrollment penalty.
To put this in the simplest terms, if you enroll in COBRA for any reason and then become eligible for Medicare, COBRA coverage will end once enrolled in Medicare. If you have Medicare, and then become eligible for COBRA, you can enroll in COBRA and have both.
There are exceptions and unique situations that we run into constantly in the world of Medicare, so we recommend contacting your plan for specifics. We also recommend working with someone who specializes in Medicare and keeps up to date with any new information that is released. Our agents are available year-round so contact us today with any questions you have.