• Connecticut Expands COBRA to Maximum 30 Months for State Insured Group Health Plans
  • June 3, 2010 | Author: Allan S. Friedland
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis LLP - Hartford Office
  • Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell has signed legislation expanding Connecticut’s state insurance law group health plan continuation coverage requirements, often referred to as “state mini-COBRA” or “Connecticut COBRA” requirements.  The legislation, Public Act 10-13, immediately affects substantially all employer group health insurance policies (both small and large group policies) subject to Connecticut state insurance law regulation.

    The Requirements
    The legislation extends to a maximum of 30 months (from 18 months) Connecticut’s COBRA continuation coverage requirements for employees and their dependents who have a COBRA qualifying event.  Examples of such an event include the employee’s layoff, reduction of hours, leave of absence, or termination of employment, other than as a result of death of the employee or as a result of such employee's "gross misconduct."

    Unlike federal COBRA, Connecticut COBRA may be terminated early if the former employee becomes eligible for coverage under any other group health insurance.  Thus, affected employers subject to federal COBRA will need to consider how to separately administer both provisions.

    The legislation is effective and applies only to COBRA beneficiaries covered under a Connecticut-regulated health insurance policy on May 5, 2010, or who become eligible for COBRA under a Connecticut-regulated insurance policy after that date.  Insurers are responsible “in conjunction with group policyholders” for notifying affected individuals of the change within 60 days after the date of enactment.  There are no other mandated notice requirements.

    Administering Connecticut COBRA
    Employers subject to federal COBRA should continue applying the federal COBRA requirements until the former employee exhausts the maximum 18 months of federal COBRA coverage.  The former employee may then be eligible for up to an additional 12 months of Connecticut COBRA coverage (for a total of 30 months) so long as the former employee is not eligible at any time for coverage under any other group health insurance, regardless of the type or cost of the other coverage.  Unlike federal COBRA, Connecticut COBRA continuation requirements may terminate early if the qualified beneficiary is merely eligible for other group health insurance.

    According to a notice published by the Connecticut State Insurance Department, the Connecticut COBRA requirements do not apply to separate Connecticut insurance policies providing for stand-alone vision, dental, or prescription drug coverage.  The requirements would apply to these coverages if they are provided under a comprehensive Connecticut-regulated group health insurance policy.

    Self-Insured and Multi-State Employer Group Health Plans
    Employers with traditional self-insured group health plans are not subject to Connecticut state insurance law requirements, and thus are not required to comply with Connecticut’s mini-COBRA requirements.

    Other employers with multi-state locations that include Connecticut should check their health insurance policies and with their carriers to determine if group health insurance coverage offered to Connecticut employees must conform to Connecticut insurance law requirements.  Generally, Connecticut law (CGS §38a-531) provides that insured group health plan coverages offered to Connecticut employees must conform with Connecticut state insurance laws if at least 51 percent of the employer’s covered employees are employed in Connecticut on any coverage or renewal date.

    Other Employer Action Steps
    Employers with affected Connecticut employees should update their COBRA procedures and discuss these changes with their COBRA third-party administrators.  Employers may furnish the Connecticut-required notice rather than letting the carrier fulfill the requirement.  Affected employers should consider whether to update or modify their COBRA communication materials with information concerning Connecticut COBRA generally.