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Disability and Cobra

Levittown, PA |

I have just started on Cobra from my last job for lack of work, it has been less than 60 day's. I am finding it very hard to find a job. I have read up on cobra and found that you can get an extension of 29 to 36 months if you are disabled. I am afraid that I am going to end up jobless without any medical insurance that I would be able to afford. I am torn, I am 59 years old and I would qualify for disability because I have Mixed Connective Tissue Disease with RA. My last job is paying for part of my Cobra for me and my husband for only the first 3 months, after that my husband is 65 so he will have to go on medicare, because for both of us it would cost over 1,000 dollars. It will cost for me, just under 500. Please, I need legal advice or help with this situation.

Attorney Answers 3


Here's how the COBRA disability extension works: most people who lose their insurance when they lose their jobs get 18 months. However, people who lose their jobs because they're disabled don't usually get on Medicare until they've been disabled for 29 months (because of the way Social Security disability and Medicare waiting periods work). So, when the government enacted COBRA, they built in a disability extension that gives people an extra 11 months - taking disabled people from month 18 to month 29 - just long enough for them to get on Medicare.

There are a lot of caveats to this, though. In order to get the extension, Social Security has to find that you became disabled in the first 60 days after you lost you job, and they have to make that decision before the first 18 months of COBRA ends, and then you have to inform the plan administrator that you've been approved within 60 days after that happens. Sometimes getting approved by Social Security takes longer than 18 months, which means the COBRA extension is lost - there's no way to go back and get back on COBRA retroactively if they don't make the decision fast enough. At that point, you're just stuck waiting for Medicare to kick in on month 30.

I know this is complicated, and I hope this explanation helps a little.

Jeremy Bordelon is a licensed attorney in the State of Tennessee only, and is authorized to practice in all Tennessee State and Federal courts, and before the Social Security Administration in any jurisdiction. The answers provided on are for information purposes only, and should not be relied on as legal advice. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. In some jurisdictions, this answer may be construed as attorney advertising.

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You may find this information from the Department of Labor helpful:

The summary plan description for the health insurance plan should also explain how to request a disability-based extension.

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You should consult a lawyer with expertise in social security disability. I recommend the Disability Law Center in Jenkintown, PA. (215) 886-0660. While you may receive the COBRA extension, you are still responsible for paying the premium yourself after the employer ends its partial payments. You should also be aware that your premium MUST be paid on time. The insurer may cancel your COBRA coverage without notice for one late payment. Therefore, I recommend you always send the premium to your employer or whatever address it is required to be sent to using a method that requires a written acknowledgement of receipt.

A full legal opinion and firm recommendations can only take place in a formal consultation with an attorney. These are my general thoughts given the limited information presented and for the purposes of this online forum only. No attorney/client relationship exists.

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