Perhaps the most important of all COBRA notices, the election notice, is sent out at the time of the qualifying event and advises employees and QBs of their right to continue coverage under COBRA.
In order for this to go smoothly, the preceding employee qualifying event notices should have been applied, and the employee should have notified the plan administrator of the qualifying event (if applicable).
The election form generally is several pages long and often broken up into different sections to help with clarity. The election notice should contain all of the information individuals need to make a COBRA election.
The regulations require that the election notice contain the following information:
- Plan name, address, contact information, etc.;
- Qualifying event and date;
- Identification of qualifying beneficiaries either by name or status (statement of independent election rights);
- Date coverage is scheduled to terminate;
- Explanation of how to elect COBRA coverage;
- Description of COBRA coverage;
- Description of circumstances under which coverage may be extended;
- Information and procedures for employees and QBs to provide notice of second QE;
- COBRA premium information;
- Information about importance of current addresses; and
- How to get more information and complete plan information.
The election notice must be sent within 14 days of the event date or loss of coverage by the plan administrator to the covered employees and QBs. In 2004, the rules solidified the long-standing practice that when the employer is also the administrator of the plan, the notice must be sent within 44 days of the event. This 44-day period, however, applies only to terminations of employment, reduction in hours (can include leave without pay or layoff), death of employee, and employer bankruptcy events. In cases of divorce, legal separation or dependent ineligibility, the notice must be sent within 14 days of the employer receiving notice.
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