Continuation health care coverage: What does California require beyond COBRA?

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Q. I know that the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires employers with 20 or more workers to offer continuation health care coverage following a “qualifying event.” Does California law impose additional requirements?

A. Yes. Effective Jan. 1, 1998, a California law expanded the requirements for continuation health-insurance coverage. Under “Cal-COBRA,” employees of businesses with 2 to 19 workers that provide group health benefits to workers are entitled to elect continuation coverage upon a qualifying event.

Qualifying events under Cal-COBRA—similar to its federal counterpart—include the employee’s death, termination or divorce, or the loss of an individual’s status as a dependent. Cal-COBRA provides continuation coverage up to 36 months.

Qualified individuals who are eligible to receive only 18 months of continuation coverage under federal COBRA may elect an additional 18 months of continuation coverage under Cal-COBRA. A person covered by federal COBRA must first exhaust his or her federal COBRA continuation coverage period, however, before becoming eligible for supplemental Cal-COBRA coverage. 

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