COBRA Qualifying Events | Events That Will Trigger COBRA

March 12, 2012

Cobra by RussBowling

COBRA Qualifying Events

There are seven different “qualifying events” that trigger COBRA, which are:

  • termination of a covered employee’s employment (other than for gross misconduct);
  • a reduction of a covered employee’s hours of work causing a loss of coverage;
  • the covered employee’s death;
  • a divorce or legal separation from the covered employee;
  • a dependent child of the covered employee ceases to be a dependent under the terms of the plan;175
  • the covered employee becomes entitled to Medicare; and
  • an employer bankruptcy (retiree plans only).176


Employers generally only have an obligation to offer COBRA continuation coverage when an individual covered under the plan experiences a qualifying event. In order for a qualifying event to occur, there must be both a triggering qualifying event (listed above) and a resulting loss in plan coverage.177 For example, an employer’s termination of its health plan will not require the employer to offer COBRA coverage, because, while there is a loss of plan coverage, no triggering event occurred that resulted in the loss of coverage.


CREDITS: This is an excerpt from An Employer’s Guide to Employment Issues in Minnesota, provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development & Linquist & Vennum P.L.L.P., Tenth Edition, 2009. Copies are available without charge from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Small Business Assistance Office.

This post is also part of a series of posts covering the Continuation of Group Health and Life Insurance Coverage Law (COBRA). This information is not legal advice. You should consult with an experienced employment attorney before dealing with COBRA-related employment issues.

176 29 U.S.C. § 1163; 26 U.S.C. §4980B(f)(3); Treas. Reg. § 54.4980B-4, Q/A-1.
177 Treas. Reg. § 54.4980B-4, Q/A-1(c).

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