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OPEN ENROLLMENT season is fast approaching. 


Open Enrollment is a busy time for HR teams throughout the country, as well as the brokers and administrators that support them.  It can seem like a whirlwind of managing change, communicating with employees, and answering the inevitable laundry-list of questions.  One requirement that can be overlooked is the need to include all COBRA qualified beneficiaries in the process.

“…a qualified beneficiary receiving continuation coverage must receive the same benefits, choices, and services that a similarly situated participant or beneficiary is currently receiving under the plan, such as the right during an open enrollment season to choose among available coverage options.”

-DOL Booklet, “An Employers Guide to Group Health Continuation Coverage Under COBRA”

The term “Open Enrollment” is defined in the regulations [Treas. Reg. §54.4980B-5, Q/A-4(c)] as “a period during which an employee covered under a plan can choose to be covered under another group health plan or under another benefit package within the same plan or to add or eliminate coverage of family members.”

Very simply stated, if an open enrollment period is available to active employees, it must also include COBRA qualified beneficiaries (QBs).  All the options available to a “similarly situation participant” such as, changing benefit options within the plan, adding coverage for dependents, and switching plans must also be available to COBRA QBs.  This applies even if the Open Enrollment period and qualified beneficiaries election period overlap. 

Keep these things in mind…

  • The need to include qualified beneficiaries means that all materials provided to active employees must also be provided to COBRA QBs. 
  • If a QB changes their coverage at open enrollment, the plan has the right to change the premium.
  • Dependents of a COBRA QB added at open enrollment are NOT qualified beneficiaries if they were not enrolled in the plan prior the qualifying event, and as such will lose coverage as soon as the QB does.
  • When an employer requires active employees to re-enroll as Open Enrollment, the same requirement applies to COBRA qualified beneficiaries.  Not re-enrolling per the employer’s requirement will result in a loss of coverage. 

Keep it straightforward and simple…  ensure you include your COBRA qualified beneficiaries in the Open Enrollment period in the exact way you do your active population or partner with an administrator that takes care of it for you the way COBRA Allies does.

Please contact your Service Ally today at service@cobraallies.com or 1-888-209-5074 if you have any questions or concerns regarding Open Enrollment COBRA compliance.  We look forward to hearing from you!