Qualified Beneficiaries

Only qualified beneficiaries can elect COBRA coverage. Who qualifies? Certain individuals who were covered under an employer’s group health plan the day before a qualifying event — that’s the reason for losing their health insurance and other benefits.

In most cases, there are three groups of people who are COBRA qualified beneficiaries:

  1. The employee (or retired employee) covered under the group health plan
  2. The covered employee’s spouse
  3. The covered employee’s dependent children

Keep in mind that each qualified beneficiary noted above had to be covered by an employer’s group health plan the day before the qualifying event. A child born to, or placed for adoption with, the covered employee while covered by COBRA is also a qualified beneficiary.

COBRA Election Rights

Each qualified beneficiary has separate election rights under the COBRA law. This means each person has their own right to COBRA coverage. For example, a qualifying employee may decline COBRA but elect coverage for his child.

Example: Bob, his wife, and their two kids are covered under the medical, dental, and vision plans offered by Bob’s employer. When the company moves a department to another site, Bob loses his job. This event causes the family to lose their coverage under the plans. Because each family member was covered the day before Bob’s layoff (the qualifying event), they are all COBRA qualified beneficiaries. Remember, each person has separate election rights. It’s possible for the entire family to continue medical coverage under COBRA while only the kids continue dental coverage.

Find more COBRA details on our Qualifying Events and Electing Coverage pages.