Small Employers: Get Informed about Mini COBRA
It hasn’t been widely published, but in addition to complying with federal COBRA requirements, all employers need to be aware of their state COBRA compliance requirements, often known as mini COBRA laws. Did you know that in many states, there are new requirements impacting employers with fewer than 20 employees?
Eligibility rules, rates, and the duration of benefits allowed under mini COBRA are often different than those dictated by federal COBRA. While federal COBRA laws apply to employers with 20 or more employees, mini COBRA applies to employees of firms with fewer than 20 workers who would not otherwise be covered by federal COBRA. Federal COBRA has a preemptive clause, so as a general rule, federal rules should be followed first and state COBRA compliance rules followed second.
As of January 2010, more than 40 states had mini COBRA laws in effect. However, many small employers are out of COBRA compliance. “Employers with less than 20 workers are no longer safe,” says Missouri ERISA attorney Amy Grace. “Many of the state mini COBRA laws mirror the federal laws. The new mini COBRA laws extend COBRA notice requirements and penalties to small employers.” According to StateHealthFacts.org, there are also many complex exceptions, creating an administrative COBRA compliance headache.
Mini COBRA Info: To learn more about the mini COBRA requirements, check with your state’s Department of Insurance. For a quick overview of state COBRA requirements, visit www.statehealthfacts.org/comparetable.jsp?ind=357&cat=7.
COBRA Compliance Tips:
- Make sure your current Summary Plan Description (SPD) reflects the continuation provisions in effect for your state or federal COBRA, whichever is applicable.
- Make sure your COBRA administrator has a system in place for complying with any applicable state mini COBRA requirements. Usually these requirements apply in addition to federal COBRA requirements, if the requirements go beyond COBRA.
- Remember, federal requirements generally preempt state requirements.
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