How long does COBRA coverage last? How long do COBRA alternative last?

COBRA benefits generally last for a maximum of 18 months for employment termination or reduction of hours of work. Certain qualifying events may permit a beneficiary to receive a maximum of 36 months of coverage. COBRA coverage ends earlier if:

  • Premiums are not paid on a timely basis
  • The employer ceases to maintain any group health plan
  • a beneficiary becomes entitled to Medicare benefits.

COBRA alternatives vary in maximum duration. Maximum coverage lengths under popular COBRA coverage lengths are:

  • 6 months
  • 12 months
  • renewable (indefinite)

 The average duration of all individual health insurance policies in the U.S.- including COBRA and all non-COBRA policies - is about 11 months according to the data compiled by health insurance companies. This likely reflects the time a person is typically "between jobs" and without insurance coverage as well as the amount of time it takes an insurance buyer finds a better deal in the market (frequently at the time of premium increase at the one year renewal of the policy).

Generally the longer the maximum policy length the more expensive the coverage so it makes sense to take a policy those maximum duration matches the expected need for coverage.

revised 1/9/11

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COBRA continuation coverage may provide temporary protection when changing jobs, going through a divorce or negotiating other life transitions. Choosing the right health insurance is crucial to protect your health and financial security.