Exchanges May Offer Better Coverage Options than COBRA

Federal guidance issued in May addresses the interaction of COBRA with the ACA. The Department of Labor (DOL) has updated its model COBRA general and election notices for employers to use; Spanish versions of the notices also are available. Accompanying DOL proposed regulations and interagency “frequently asked questions” guidance explain that public exchanges may offer better coverage options than COBRA in some situations, and to optimize their decisions individuals need to understand the somewhat complex interaction of COBRA and exchange enrollment, including eligibility for exchange subsidies. Final rules published May 27 by the Department of Health and Human Services further clarify some of these issues.

Under guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, dropping COBRA coverage normally isn’t an exchange special-enrollment event, but individuals who currently have or are eligible for COBRA coverage can enroll in federally run exchanges through a one-time special-enrollment period until July 1.

In Congress, Senators are poised to consider President Obama’s pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department, Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Burwell would succeed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who announced her resignation last month. Republican senators will continue to press for a vote on repealing the law’s medical device tax, although leaders of the Democratic-controlled chamber aren’t likely to oblige.

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