The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 made changes to three areas of the continuing-coverage rules that apply to group health plans under COBRA:
- Beneficiaries may extend their COBRA coverage period from 18 months to 29 months if they become disabled within the first 60 days of COBRA continuation coverage. The 29-month period also applies to a disabled beneficiary’s nondisabled dependents. Under the old law, a beneficiary had to be deemed disabled (under the Social Security Act) at the time of the qualifying event to receive 29 months of COBRA continuation coverage.
- A child born to or placed for adoption with a terminated employee during the continuation coverage period is also treated as a qualified beneficiary.
- HIPAA limits the circumstances in which health plans can apply exclusions for pre-existing conditions, thus allowing employers to cut off COBRA continuation coverage sooner.
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