What are the COBRA rules applying to small businesses in Ohio?

Q. We are a small business, with only 12 full-time employees and a smattering of on-again, off-again part-timers. When an employee leaves, do we have to provide a COBRA notice?

Generally, yes. “COBRA” stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986. It is a federal statute that covers the employer-sponsored group health plans of employers that had at least 20 employees (both full-time and part-time) on more than half of its typical business days in the previous calendar year.

COBRA applies only to group health plans. It does not cover other types of employer-sponsored plans, such as disability or life insurance plans.

While COBRA applies only to employers with 20 or more employees, Ohio has its own “mini-COBRA” law that applies to employers with 10 to 19 employees.

COBRA requires employers to offer continuation coverage to covered employees, their spouses, their former spouses and their dependent children when group health coverage would otherwise be lost due to certain specific events, such as a termination or resignation.

Ohio’s mini-COBRA extends benefits for only six months, compared to the 18 months of its federal counterpart.

The recently signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 included health insurance assistance for the unemployed. It works with COBRA to help laid off employees pay for continued health insurance coverage. Until now, employees had to pay the entire cost plus a small administrative fee to retain their coverage. For employees who were laid off or will be laid off between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009, new rules apply.

Find more details on HR Specialist’s continually updated ARRA page at www.theHRSpecialist.com/stimulus.