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Offering COBRA to a terminated employee’s domestic partner

Many employers offer coverage to employees’ domestic partners under their health care plans. If your organization does so, you need to determine what rights domestic partners have regarding COBRA insurance.

General principles

One common question for employers is whether terminated employees may elect to continue COBRA coverage for their domestic partners. The answer is yes; a terminated employee who elects to continue health plan coverage under COBRA may also elect coverage for a domestic partner who was covered under the plan immediately before the employee’s termination.

The domestic partner’s COBRA coverage depends on the employee’s coverage. In other words, the domestic partner will be covered until the employee’s COBRA coverage ends, whether due to failure to pay required premiums or because the coverage period has ended.

This is based on the general principle that COBRA coverage must ordinarily be the same coverage that the qualified beneficiary (in this case, the terminated em…