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Employers with group health plans subject to COBRA are required to provide plan participants and qualified beneficiaries with information about COBRA continuation rights at different points in time.
Many employers use a third-party COBRA administrator to assist with these notice requirements. However, even if an employer uses a COBRA administrator, the employer may remain responsible for providing the Initial Notice. The employer will also remain responsible for notifying the COBRA administrator when some qualifying events occur (i.e. termination of employment, reduction in hours, the employee’s death, or the employee’s Medicare entitlement) so that the administrator will know to provide a qualifying event notice (or election notice) to qualified beneficiaries. In addition, the employer should verify the COBRA administrator will provide all other notices within applicable time frames using compliant delivery methods.
There are five different notices that must be used for compliant COBRA administration. Each of these are set forth below.
The IRS provided model notices for two of the most important notices:
For each required notice, the paper notice must be actually handed to each applicable individual or mailed to their home. Electronic delivery is allowed if DOL safe harbor requirements are satisfied; however, this method is unlikely to reach spouses and therefore is not recommended.