Effective July 10, 2009, medical insurers covering small employers in Pennsylvania will be required to offer COBRA-like continuation coverage to qualified employees and their eligible dependents. The new law covers small employers who have between two and 19 employees on a typical business day during the preceding calendar year.
The so-called mini-COBRA coverage expands on the federal COBRA law that covers employers with at least 20 employees and allows employees who are involuntarily terminated to qualify under a federal economic stimulus law for a 65% federal subsidy of both COBRA and mini-COBRA premiums.
Like the federal law, qualifying events for coverage under the new Pennsylvania mini-COBRA are loss of group coverage due to termination of employment, death, divorce or marital separation. However, there are some key differences between the federal COBRA and Pennsylvania’s mini-COBRA law, some of which are as follows:
- Under the Pennsylvania law, an employee or dependent must have been continuously covered by medical insurance for three months prior to termination of coverage and may not be covered or eligible for coverage under another medical plan or Medicare.
- Under the Pennsylvania law, continuation coverage must be extended for nine months; under federal COBRA law, coverage is available up to 18 months when employment is terminated and 36 months in situations involving death, divorce or legal separation.
- Under the Pennsylvania mini-COBRA law, beneficiaries can be charged a premium up to 105% of the group rate; federal COBRA beneficiaries can be charged a premium of up to 102% of the group rate.
- Pennsylvania mini-COBRA obligations apply to insurers; federal COBRA applies to employers that provide medical coverage through self-insurance or insurance products.
Employers and insurers will need to provide notices to employees and dependents of the provisions of the new law as well as their rights to elect continuation coverage upon the occurrence of a qualifying event.