Cobra General Notice

We just began a new vision plan and I know that I must send out a general notice to our employees and their family members on the plan within 90-days.  Is e-mailing the general notice and summary benefits to our employee's wprl e-mail addresses acceptable?  Or must I mail the general notice to meet the legal requirement?   


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  • With respect to the delivery of the COBRA general notice, the final rules specifically allow for delivery of a single notice addressed to a covered employee and the covered employee’s spouse at their joint residence, as long as the plan’s latest information indicates that both reside at that address. It must also allow the plan to satisfy the general notice requirement by including the general notice information in the SPD of the plan and providing the SPD at a time that complies with the timing requirements for the general notice.

    Your ability to email COBRA letters and forms depends on whether or not you have received approval from the employee/spouse that this is an acceptable way of communicating with them.  It is best to gain this approval when the Cobra Election Notice has been sent.  In that communication, you should have them certify that he/she would like to receive future correspondence via email.  Once you have this documented in writing, then you can e-mail your COBRA communications to them.  I would also state in your intial communcations and all future e-mail communications that any change in e-mail addresses requires that the employee/spouse communicate this change to you immediately in order to ensure continued future communications and that if they desire to no longer receive communications via e-mail, that communication must happen as well.  Dot all your I's and cross your T's to ensure you don't end up at fault.

    Keep copies of all COBRA e-mail communicaitons which will also prove ongiong compliance.

    Hope this helps.


  • Is a vision plan subject to COBRA? I always get a little confused over the continuation requirements for this type of supplemental benefit. Does anyone have a good way of explaining the requirements? By the way, I know of a situation where a company was sued for not sending a COBRA notice on termination--they didn't have proof it was sent. Hard way to learn the lesson that notices should be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, or by overnight mail so their is proof it was sent.

  •  For purposes of COBRA, a group health plan is defined as a benefit program that is maintained by an employer to provide health care to employees, former employees, the employer, others associated or formerly associated with the employer or employee organization in a business relationship (including members of a union who are not currently employees), or their families.  Coverage may be provided through insurance, an on-site facility, or be self-funding.  This definition is quite broad, and includes any health plan maintained by an employer where coverage under the plan is not available at the same cost to an individual who is not an employee.  It includes plans that are both contributory and noncontributory.  Specifically excluded from coverage are Medical Savings Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and plans where substantially all the benefits are long-term care insurance.

    Health care includes the diagnosis, cure, medication, treatment, or prevention of disease, or any other undertaking for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body.  It also includes transportation that is essential to such health care.  On the other hand, “health care” does not include benefits that are merely beneficial to the general health of an individual, such as a vacation.

    Employer sponsored vision plans are covered by COBRA. I think that some of the confusion comes in because the HIPAA portability requirements do not cover vision and dental benefits if they are provided under a separate policy or are not an integral part of the medical plan.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • There is some controversy about whether using certified mail for COBRA notices is a good idea. While certified mail return receipt requested is an acceptable means of delivering COBRA notices, and if the receipt is signed and returned, it is excellent documentary evidence that the notice was mailed, problems can result if the receipt does not come back. The plan administrator is then on notice that it was not received and will have to quickly devise another means reasonably calculated to insure delivery.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
    Because several courts have held that sending the notice by first class mail to the ex-employee’s last known address is presumed to satisfy the COBRA notification requirements, a return receipt is not necessary to prove that the notice was mailed. But 
    there  must be a system that documents the mailing process. Examples of acceptable systems range from a log recording when and to whom a notice was sent, or a file with copies of each notice sent including a copy of the envelope, to an elaborate computerized mailing system.
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