Washington Health Insurance Continuation (COBRA): What you need to know

The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) permits employees to continue their group health coverage if they leave the group for certain specified reasons. Although many states also require continued coverage in many situations, Washington requires that insurers make this benefit available as an option. The employer may decide whether to offer continuation rights in addition to those required by COBRA. The insurer and the employer may negotiate the limits and requirements of the policy's continuation provisions.
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Washington law also requires that employees who are out of work as a result of a strike be allowed to pay group insurance carriers directly for their coverage for up to 6 months.
According to federal law, when comparing state and federal rights, employees may choose the law that is more favorable to their situations. This means that in Washington, employees will usually choose continuation under COBRA.
“Conversion” is the right to convert to individual coverage when group coverage ends. An employee who converts to an individual policy may have to pay premiums at the applicable individual rate, which is based on age and class of risk, but is not required to take a physical examination or show evidence of insurability.
Under Washington law, conversion must be offered in nearly all situations that result in termination of coverage. Conversion need not be offered to employees who were terminated for misconduct (but spouses and dependents must still be offered the right to convert) or to those who are eligible for Medicare or those who are covered under another group plan. To obtain a conversion policy, the person must submit a written application and pay the first premium ...

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