Rhode Island law and the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) both permit employees to continue their group health coverage if they leave the group for certain specified reasons. Rhode Island's requirement is more generous than federal COBRA in that it applies to all employers regardless of size and provides continuation following divorce with no specific time limit. However, Rhode Island's continuation law applies in fewer situations than federal COBRA, provides shorter continuation in certain circumstances, and cuts off continuation following divorce as provided in the decree or when either party remarries. According to federal law, when comparing state and federal continuation rights, employees may select the law that is most favorable to their situation.
Insured group hospital, surgical, dental, vision, or medical insurance plans must provide up to 18 months' continuation coverage to individuals who would otherwise lose coverage because of an involuntary layoff, a workplace ceasing to exist, a permanent reduction in size of the workforce, or the death of an employee (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 27-19.1-1). The continuation period does not have to be longer than the period of continuous employment preceding termination from the employer. Continuation may also be terminated when the employee, surviving spouse, or any other dependent becomes employed by another group and eligible for benefits under another group plan.
Construction exception. The Rhode Island requirement does not apply to a construction industry employee or his or her employer if the employee had been a participant in, and the employer was a contributor to, a multiemployer welfare plan.