Managing federally mandated COBRA compliance can make your head spin, but add state-level COBRA compliance for employers who fall outside the federal compliance range (also known as mini-COBRA or state continuation coverage) and all its state-by-state nuances to the mix, and it can easily feel like a full-time job.
Those managing COBRA need to track qualifying events, notification deadlines and coverage periods for both federal and state laws based on how they are organized and stay on top of the newly developing mini-COBRA regulations. This process can be particularly daunting for companies with multi-state presence or those that employ under 20 employees and not accustomed to administering COBRA.
A recent SHRM article helpfully details Mini-COBRA laws by state. Here are three kinds of key variations between federal and state COBRA compliance laws, and in a moment you'll understand that an automated COBRA solution can be a life-saver!
Federal COBRA regulations apply to employers with 20 or more employees. Mini-COBRA laws apply to employers with fewer than 20. Some states have rules that mimic federal law, while others specify different groups of employers to which Mini-COBRA laws apply. Moreover, Mini-COBRA laws are subject to change and new ones are being passed all the time. Here's a look at a few states and their variations:
- New Jersey: employers with two to 50 employees must comply with the state’s Mini-COBRA law.
- Arkansas, Illinois, Texas, and Nevada: Mini-COBRA laws that apply to all employers, regardless of the number of employees.
- Arizona passed a new Mini-COBRA law in January 2019, covering employers with one to 20 employees.
Federal COBRA laws have specifically-defined qualifying events that make an employee, their spouse, or children eligible for COBRA coverage. Similarly, state COBRA laws also define which qualifying events trigger COBRA eligibility. However, they’re not all the same. Some examples:
- California considers exhaustion of federal COBRA coverage as a qualifying event for additional coverage under certain circumstances.
- Hawaii, the sole Mini-COBRA qualifying event is hospitalization or inability to work due to illness.
- Washington state’s Mini-COBRA law considers only strikes, lockouts, or other labor disputes as qualifying events.
Maximum Coverage Period
Federal COBRA coverage extends to a maximum of 18 or 36 months depending on the type of qualifying event that triggered coverage. Mini-COBRA laws, on the other hand, range from a coverage period of three months (Washington DC and Hawaii) to an indefinite coverage period, as long as the employee meets certain criteria (Wisconsin). With such a wide variation in coverage periods from state to state, it can be very easy to confuse Mini-COBRA coverage limits for different groups of employees, depending on where they’re based.
Avoid Mini-COBRA Nightmares!
Staying COBRA-compliant can be challenging enough, and when you have multiple employees across different states, it can take hours to keep track of qualifying events, coverage periods, and notification deadlines. However, COBRA and Mini-COBRA administration doesn’t have to be tedious or stressful.
Our COBRA software automates every facet of COBRA management, including all state Mini-COBRA laws, and can integrate with most HCM and payroll platforms our there. We are also integrated with over 600+ insurance carriers, helping you to increase the overall efficiency of your COBRA administration process. We love helping our clients turn their Mini-COBRA nightmares into a smooth-sailing experience!