DoL Announces COBRA Notice Clarification

May 23, 2003 ( -The US Department of Labor (DoL) has proposed new rules to clarify the requirements for notices under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) for employees, employers, and plan administrators.

The proposal provides guidance and model notices for workers and family members to continue their group health care coverage. Under COBRA, most group health plans must give employees the opportunity to elect a temporary continuation of their coverage when it would otherwise be lost, according to a news release.

Further, COBRA requires that certain notices be given before individuals can elect continuing coverage:

  • the plan administrator must give employees and spouses a general notice explaining COBRA when the employees and spouses first become covered under the plan
  • when a qualifying event occurs, either the employer or the employee must notify the plan of the event
  • the plan must notify individuals of their COBRA rights and allow them to elect continuation coverage.

“More than five million Americans become eligible for COBRA health benefits each year,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor Ann Combs in a statement. “We estimate up to 50,000 of those eligible for COBRA may miss the opportunity to take the coverage because they did not obtain notices required by the law.”

Public comments on the proposed regulations should be submitted to the US Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Room N5669, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20210. The proposed regulations are scheduled to be published in the May 28, 2003 Federal Register. A fact sheet on the proposal is available on EBSA’s Web site at .