If I waive COBRA coverage during the election period, can I still get coverage at a later date? How does COBRA alternate coverage fit in?

There are two opportunities to elect coverage after initially declining or missing the prescribed enrollment period.

First, if any qualified beneficiary waives COBRA coverage during the election period, he or she may revoke the waiver of coverage before the end of the election period. A beneficiary may then elect COBRA coverage but the insurer is not required to offer the coverage retroactively before the date the waiver is revoked.

Second, Individuals involuntarily terminated from September 1, 2008 through February 16, 2009 who did not elect COBRA when it was first offered OR who did elect COBRA, but are no longer enrolled (for example because they were unable to continue paying the premium) have a new election opportunity. This election period begins on February 17, 2009 and ends 60 days after the plan provides the required notice of eligibility.

A similar principle applies to COBRA alternatives even though there is no election period for this type of insurance and no possibility of retroactive coverage. If an applicant declines an offer of coverage or cancels an in-force policy then it is still possible to reapply at any time but coverage will not be available before the later date of application.

Because of this limiting provision of COBRA law, it makes sense to apply for COBRA alternatives when appropriate and available while not submitting a waiver of COBRA coverage. If a better of offer of coverage is not available through COBRA alternative insurance then it is still possible to invoke the retroactive COBRA coverage if necessary. Otherwise COBRA eligibility will expire at the latest possible date without any response from the plan participant so there is no reason to submit a waiver.

revised 3/6/09

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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.