Extended COBRA Coverage

I am having trouble deciphering when a spouse would be eligible for 36 months of COBRA vs the 18 months of COBRA when the employee retires/becomes Medicare eligible. I am seeing conflicting statements to say yes it is a 36 month entitlement and no, it is only 18 months. Anyone know what the answer is?


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  • There are no other qualifiers. The simple scenario is an employee on the verge of retirement with a younger spouse. The employee will reach Medicare age first and leave the spouse without coverage once the 18 months has expired. It becomes a non-issue if the coverage can last for 36 months.
  • In reviewing my COBRA information it states that any qualified beneficiary is eligible for an extension of up to 18 months 36 months of total coverag) if the former employee dies, enrolls in Medicare or gets divorced or legally separated during the initial 18 months of COBRA coverage.

    We have had this happen more than once that an employee retires (takes an "early" retirement) and enrolls in COBRA for both them and the spouse. They are subsequently eligible for COBRA and the spouse elects COBRA for another 18 months.
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