This notice contains important information about your right to COBRA continuation coverage, which is a temporary extension of coverage under the medical and/or dental plans (the Plan). This notice generally explains COBRA continuation coverage, when it may become available to you and your family, and what you need to do to protect the right to receive it. The right to COBRA continuation coverage was created by a federal law, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). COBRA continuation coverage can become available to you when you would otherwise lose your group health coverage. It can also become available to other members of your family who are covered under the Plan when they would otherwise lose their group health coverage. For additional information about your rights and obligations under the Plan and under federal law, you should review the Plan’s Benefit Booklet or contact the Benefit Services department.
Employees, and covered dependents, will be eligible for COBRA continuation if they are enrolled in the following benefit programs and leave employment or lose eligibility to remain covered on the plans:
- Medical Flexible Spending Account
What is COBRA continuation coverage?
COBRA continuation coverage is a continuation of plan coverage when coverage would otherwise end because of a life event known as a “qualifying event.” Specific qualifying events are listed later in this notice. After a qualifying event, COBRA continuation coverage must be offered to each person who is a “qualified beneficiary.” You, your spouse, and your dependent children could become qualified beneficiaries if coverage under the Plan is lost because of the qualifying event. Under the Plan, qualified beneficiaries who elect COBRA continuation coverage must pay for COBRA continuation coverage. If you are an employee, you will become a qualified beneficiary if you lose your coverage under the Plan because either one of the following qualifying events happens:
- Your hours of employment are reduced, or
- Your employment ends for any reason other than your gross misconduct.
If you are the spouse of an employee, you will become a qualified beneficiary if you lose your coverage under the Plan because any of the following qualifying events happens:
- Your spouse dies;
- Your spouse’s hours of employment are reduced;
- Your spouse’s employment ends for any reason other than his or her gross misconduct;
- Your spouse becomes entitled to Medicare benefits (under Part A, Part B, Part D or all); or
- You become divorced or legally separated from your spouse.
Your dependent children will become qualified beneficiaries if they lose coverage under the Plan because any of the following qualifying events happens;
- The parent-employee dies;
- The parent-employee’s hours of employment are reduced;
- The parent-employee’s employment ends for any reason other than his or her gross misconduct;
- The parent-employee becomes entitled to Medicare benefits (Part A, Part B, Part D or all);
- The parents become divorced or legally separated; or
- The child stops being eligible for coverage under the plan as a “dependent child.”
Sometimes, filing a proceeding in bankruptcy under title 11 of the United States Code can be a qualifying event. If a proceeding in bankruptcy is filed with respect to New Mexico State University (NMSU), and that bankruptcy results in the loss of coverage of any retired employee covered under the Plan, the retired employee will become a qualified beneficiary with respect to the bankruptcy. The retired employee’s spouse, surviving spouse, and dependent children will also become qualified beneficiaries if bankruptcy results in the loss of their coverage under the Plan.
When is COBRA coverage available?
The Plan will offer COBRA continuation coverage to qualified beneficiaries only after the Benefit Services department has been notified that a qualifying event has occurred. When the qualifying event is the end of employment or reduction of hours of employment, death of the employee, commencement of a proceeding in bankruptcy with respect to NMSU or the employee’s becoming entitled to Medicare benefits (under Part A, Part B, Part D or all), NMSU will notify the plan administrator you have the right to choose COBRA continuation coverage.
You must give notice of some qualifying events
For the other qualifying events (divorce or legal separation of the employee and spouse or a dependent child’s losing eligibility for coverage as a dependent child), you must notify the Benefit Services department within 31 days after the qualifying event occurs. You must provide this notice to: NMSU Benefit Services department. You will be required to complete a new enrollment form, provide a copy of the divorce decree, legal separation papers or a marriage certificate and a mailing address for the affected dependent.
How is COBRA coverage provided?
Once the NMSU Benefit Services department receives notice that a qualifying event has occurred, COBRA continuation coverage will be offered to each of the qualified beneficiaries. Each qualified beneficiary will have an independent right to elect COBRA continuation coverage. Covered employees may elect COBRA continuation coverage on behalf of their spouses, and parents may elect COBRA continuation coverage on behalf of their children. COBRA continuation coverage is a temporary continuation of coverage. When the qualifying event is the death of the employee, the employee’s becoming entitled to Medicare benefits (under Part A, Part B, Part D or all), your divorce or legal separation, or a dependent child’s losing eligibility as a dependent child, COBRA continuation coverage lasts for up to a total of 36 months. When the qualifying event is the end of employment or reduction of the employee’s hours of employment, and the employee became entitled to Medicare benefits less than 18 months before the qualifying event, COBRA continuation coverage for qualified beneficiaries other than the employee lasts until 36 months after the date of Medicare entitlement. For example, if a covered employee becomes entitled to Medicare 8 months before the date on which his employment terminates, COBRA continuation coverage for the spouse and children can last up to 36 months after the date of Medicare entitlement, which is equal to 28 months after the date of the qualifying event (36 months minus 8 months). Otherwise, when the qualifying event is the end employment or reduction of the employee’s hours of employment, COBRA continuation coverage generally lasts for only up to a total of 18 months. There are two ways in which this 18-month period of COBRA continuation coverage can be extended. Disability extension of 18-month period of continuation coverage. If you or anyone in your family covered under the Plan is determined by the Social Security Administration to be disabled and you notify the COBRA Administrator in a timely fashion, you and your entire family may be entitled to receive up to an additional 11 months of COBRA continuation coverage, for a total maximum of 29 months. The disability would have to have started at some time before the 60th day of COBRA continuation coverage and must last at least until the end of the 18-month period of continuation coverage. To obtain this coverage, you must send a copy of the “Social Security Administration Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance Notice of Award” letter within 60 days of the date of determination and before the 18 months of COBRA coverage ends. Second qualifying event extension of 18-month period of continuation coverage. If your family experiences another qualifying event while receiving 18 months of COBRA continuation coverage, the spouse and dependent children in your family can get up to 18 additional months of COBRA continuation coverage, for a maximum of 36 months, if notice of the second qualifying event is properly given to the COBRA Administrator. This extension may be available to the spouse and any dependent children receiving continuation coverage if the employee or former employee dies, becomes entitled to Medicare benefits (under Part A, Part B, Part D or both), or gets divorced or legally separated, or if the dependent child stops being eligible under the Plan as a dependent child, but only if the event would have caused the spouse or dependent child to lose coverage under the Plan had the first qualifying event not occurred.
Questions Concerning your Plan or Coverage?
Questions concerning your Plan or your COBRA continuation coverage rights should be addressed to the contact or contacts identified below. For more information about your rights under COBRA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other laws affecting group health plans, contact the nearest Regional or District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) in your area or visit the EBSA website at www.dol.gov/ebsa. (Addresses and phone numbers of Regional and District EBSA Offices are available through EBSA’s website.)
Keep your plan informed of address changes
In order to protect your family’s rights, you should keep the NMSU Benefit Services department informed of any changes in the addresses of family members. You should also keep a copy, for your records, of any notices you send to the Benefit Services department or the COBRA Administrator.
Plan Contact Information
General Information, Vision, and Flexible Spending Accounts:
New Mexico State University, Benefit Services P.O. Box 30001, MSC 3HRS Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001
ERISA, 1200 San Pedro NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110 / ph: 1-855-618-1800