The initial notice usually is the employee’s and QB’s first notification of COBRA under a group health plan. It typically occurs at the time coverage begins and lets a QB know that he or she loses coverage due to certain qualifying events and that COBRA will be offered.
The plan administrator must send the notice to the employee and spouse within 90 days of new coverage. This notice is commonly issued in the plan’s Summary Plan Description (SPD), but the employer must ensure the plan’s SPD meets timing guidelines and contains minimum requirements of the notice distribution rules. Employers may want to consider posting the SPD on their Internet/Intranet site as well.
The general notice must be addressed to both employee and spouse. If the spouse resides at a separate address, a notice should be sent separately to the spouse. If dependents reside in a different household, a separate notice also should be sent to those dependents residing separately. If a spouse’s coverage becomes effective on a different date than that of the employee, a separate notice must be sent to the spouse.
Hand delivering the notice to employees is acceptable but does not meet the requirements for spousal notification procedures. If an employee or spouse experiences a qualifying event within 90 days of being covered and the general notice has not been sent, it should be sent out at the same time as the election notice. If administrators are using a generic notice they must be sure to include the name and specific contact information of the person whom the qualified beneficiary may contact with further questions and request additional plan information.
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