COBRA Notification Letter

My company is downsizing and I need to notify the ee's leaving of their COBRA rights. I found the general notice letter but wonder if someone might be able to share their specific notification letter with me. Also, do I understand that I must send separate registered letters to the employee and spouse when both were covered? Our people will stay on payroll and medical until their severance time is over. I assume I use that date to calculate my 14 days to mail notification? Any info is appreciated.


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  • You can E-Mail your FAX number to me at [email][/email] Well, I blew my cover, Gillian is my daughter, bless her heart. I don't believe that you need separate letters to the employee and spouse but a letter addressed to both, or MR. and MS. I guess that is. I will doublecheck on that point by the time I fax. The 14 days starts at the time the insurance ends. By the way, you might want to check into getting a third party administrator to do this stuff.

  • Could you please fax that COBRA notification letter to me as well? Fax is 910-251-1540. Thanks!

  • What we've done in the past is send one letter, certified, to the employee upon termination that lists all those covered under the plan, and the costs of continuing under COBRA. I'd be happy to send you a sample letter if you give me your fax number.

  • Would be happy to share our forms. We give every terninating emplyee a set of forms outlining their rights, etc. and also send registered, signature required documents for the spouse or couple as indicated. email: [email][/email].

  • I thought that the preferred method of mailing COBRA notices was to use Certificate of Mailing. I was under the impression that when you used certified mail, anyone can sign for the letter and the former employee can claim that he/she didn't receive it, but with the Certificate of Mailing, the post office actually gives you something that confirms the letter went out on what date and to who.

  • I agree with you Michelle. I attended a COBRA seminar on 10/31/00 in Wisconsin & they stressed sending the notification by Certificate of Mailing.

  • The letter should be addressed to the employee, and spouse, and "dependent" (i.e., Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and dependents).

    The election/waiver form should also identify all qualified beneficiaries with a signature line for each to elect or waive (i.e., the employee cannot waive his/her spouse, each must elect or waive their own rights; while an employee can sign for a minor dependent).

    It does require certified mailing, so that you have documentation of when the 14-day clock is ticking.

  • A certificate of mailing is cheaper than certified or registered. The law just requires it be mailed first class, and the certificate of mailing proves you mailed it. You don't have to prove they received it.

    I thought the 14 days to send the notice was calculated from when you receive notice that they are terminating (if that's possible.) It probably would be a good idea to go ahead and send the notice to all those who have been informed that their job is ending. (Some of the staff attorneys need to get in on this question!)

  • I hope this will address some of the issues raised in the various responses to this question about COBRA coverage at a layoff where coverage will be continued thought the severance period.

    My first advice is to look at what your plan documents state you will do. Sometimes a layoff is addressed in the document, as is the timing of the COBRA notices. As long as the terms of the document are at least as strict as the law, you should follow the document.

    Assuming the plan documents are silent on the point, your time for sending out the COBRA notices is complicated by the fact that you are extending coverage beyond the qualifying event date through the severance period. If this extended severance coverage is the same as, and doesn't cost more than, normal coverage when the employee was active, it may be counted as part of the COBRA continuation coverage. To do this, you must give the COBRA notice based upon the date employment ceases, and the participants will have until 60 days after their extended severance coverage ends to make their election for the rest of the COBRA period.

    It appears also that you could choose to treat the loss of the extended severance coverage as the qualifying event, and make the full COBRA continuation period available beginning on that date. However, if you, as the employer, are also acting as the plan administrator (i.e. you send out COBRA notices yourself), you may open yourself up to late penalties if you wait until the coverage is lost to send out the election notices. Therefore, you should send out the notices based upon the employee's loss of employment even in this case. If the extended severance coverage is a fairly long period, you might want to (but are not required to) send a reminder about the loss of coverage and their right to elect COBRA coverage as their severance coverage ends.

    If you are fully insured, you should check with your carrier about the option you choose above.

    With respect to the actual COBRA notice, there is no requirement that it be sent by certified or registered mail; first class mail to the last known address is sufficient. The problem is proving that it was actually mailed. For this reason, many use certified or registered mail so they get a receipt back. Other use a procedure offered by the Postal Service which generates a certificate that certain items were mailed via first class on a particular date.

    As to who should get the notice, the spouse and the dependents have the right to elect COBRA coverage even if the employee (or anyone else) does not. You can send separate notice/election forms for each person, or one notice/election form if it is clear that each has an independent right to elect.

    If all persons live at the same address, you can send all notices in the same envelope to that address, but the envelope should be addressed to each person. Otherwise, I recommend mailing a notice separately to each person.

    I hope this clarifies.

    Scott Ruth
    Miller & Martin LLP

  • I suggest mailing to all individuals covered because you, as the employer, do not know their home situation. A covered family member could have moved away and have a forwarding address that won't get noticed if the employee still lives at the current address and signs for a letter addressed to all parties. All humans have different motivations-- we have to be aware of that and be one step ahead.

    Don't forget to stay on top of divorcing couples too. Request a new address from the employee for the spouse. You are responsible to get them COBRA information.

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