COBRA is a federal law that may let you keep your employer group health plan coverage for a limited time after your employment ends or after you would otherwise lose coverage. This is called “continuation coverage.”
If you have COBRA and are about to join Medicare (or already have Medicare), we encourage you to read the fact sheet COBRA: 7 important facts on Medicare.gov.
The sections below answer common questions about whether to enroll in Medicare with COBRA, and how COBRA works with Medicare coverage.
If I have COBRA, do I have to enroll in Medicare?
If you have COBRA, you should plan to enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period when you turn 65. Or, if you (or your spouse) delayed taking Medicare at age 65 because you were actively working and covered under group insurance, you should plan to enroll in Medicare when you stop actively working, as you will have a Special Enrollment Period then.
COBRA and retiree health plans are not considered coverage based on current employment. That means that you are not eligible for a Special Enrollment Period into Medicare when your COBRA ends. This Special Enrollment Period also doesn't apply to people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
I have Medicare and COBRA continuation coverage. Who pays first?
If you or your spouse are retired and have COBRA continuation coverage, Medicare pays first.
If you have Medicare based on End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), COBRA pays first. Medicare pays second to the extent COBRA coverage overlaps the first 30 months of Medicare eligibility or entitlement based on ESRD.
You can learn more about this in the official Medicare publication, Who Pays First?
Whether and when you should elect COBRA coverage can be a very complicated decision. When you lose employer coverage and you have Medicare, you need to be aware of your COBRA election period, your Parts B and D enrollment periods, and your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. These may all have different deadlines that overlap, so be aware that what you decide about one type of coverage (COBRA, Part B, Part D, and Medigap) might cause you to lose rights under one of the other types of coverage.
Aon Hewitt Navigators® is a Medicare insurance brokerage service recommended by NCOA because it meets rigorous Standards of Excellence established by NCOA. You may be eligible for personal one-on-one assistance in selecting and enrolling in health coverage. All of the services are provided at no cost to consumers. Check to see if you are eligible.
Get personal help to determine what is the best option for your situation.