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elaws - employment laws assistance for workers and small businesses - Health Benefits Advisor for Employers

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

Does your plan administrator provide a proper general notice describing COBRA rights to each covered employee and each covered spouse of a covered employee within the required timeframes?

General Notice

Plan administrators must give each covered employee and each covered spouse of the covered employee a general notice describing COBRA rights. The general notice must be provided within the first 90 days of coverage or within 90 days after which the plan becomes subject to COBRA. (However, if a qualifying event occurs for a qualified beneficiary within those 90 days, the general notice must be provided at the same time the plan administrator is required to provide an election notice.) Plan administrators can satisfy this requirement by including the general notice in the planís summary plan description (SPD) and giving the SPD to the employee and to the covered spouse within this time limit.

The general notice must include:

  • The name of the plan and the name, address, and telephone number of someone whom the employee and spouse can contact for more information about COBRA and the plan;
  • A general description of the COBRA coverage provided under the plan, including identification of the classes of individuals who may become qualified beneficiaries, the types of qualifying events that may give rise to the right to COBRA coverage, the obligation of the employer to notify the plan administrator of the occurrence of certain qualifying events, the maximum required period for which COBRA coverage may be available, when and under what circumstances COBRA coverage may be extended beyond the applicable maximum required period, and the planís requirements applicable to the payment of COBRA coverage;
  • An explanation of what qualified beneficiaries must do to notify the plan of certain qualifying events, and a description of the planís procedures for providing such notice;
  • An explanation of what qualified beneficiaries must do to notify the plan of a determination by the Social Security Administration that a qualified beneficiary is disabled;
  • An explanation of the importance of keeping the plan administrator informed of addresses of the participants and beneficiaries; and
  • A statement that the general notice does not fully describe COBRA or the plan and that more complete information is available from the plan administrator and in the SPD.

The Department of Labor has developed a model general notice that is intended to assist plan administrators of single-employer group health plans in satisfying the general notice requirement. Use of this model notice is not mandatory. However, in order to use it, a plan administrator must appropriately add relevant information where indicated in the model notice, select among alternative language, and supplement the model notice to reflect applicable plan provisions. Items of information that are not applicable to a particular plan may be deleted. Use of the model general notice, appropriately modified and supplemented, will be considered by the Department to satisfy the general notice content requirements of COBRA for single-employer group health plans. This model notice must be modified if used to provide notice with respect to other types of group health plans, such as multiemployer plans or plans established and maintained by employee organizations for their members.

The Department of Labor also has developed a general notice in Spanish.