Who is eligible for COBRA coverage?

Three types of people, known as “beneficiaries,” are protected by COBRA: employees or former employees, their spouses, and their dependent children. The beneficiaries must be covered under an employer health plan. In order to trigger COBRA coverage, one of several “qualifying events” must occur. These include employment termination, reduction in work hours, death, employee becoming entitled to Medicare coverage, divorce, legal separation, and a child losing dependent status.

COBRA is available to employees in the private sector, in state and local government, and working as independent contractors. However, employees of the federal government, the District of Columbia, some church-related organization, and firms employing less than twenty people are exempt. Some states have adopted similar laws covering exempt employers.