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I have been laid off from a small company with 10 workers. I know that federal continuation of health coverage requirements (COBRA) do not apply to my employer. Is there a law in Maine that allows me to continue my job based health insurance coverage?

Federal COBRA applies to companies with 20 or more workers. The Maine insurance code has a limited continuation coverage requirement for workers who work for a company with fewer than 20 employees. This requirement is sometimes referred to as mini-COBRA. It provides one year of continuation coverage to qualified employees. So if your employer offered Health insurance coverage through a fully insured policy and you were laid off, you may qualify.
Continuation rights are only available if

  • you are temporarily laid off; or
  • you lost employment because of an injury or disease that would be covered under workers' compensation

Under the mini-COBRA law insurers are permitted to require up to six months of employment before the layoff and to require the employee to elect coverage within 31 days of the layoff. There are additional requirements for dependent continuation coverage.

Whom do I contact if I have additional questions about mini-COBRA continuation coverage?

Please contact the Maine Bureau of Insurance by calling toll free at 1-800-300-5000 and ask for the Consumer Health Care Division.

Are Domestic Partners who are covered as dependents eligible for continuation coverage under federal COBRA and Maine "mini-COBRA" laws

  1. "Mini-COBRA" / YES: Small group health insurance carriers that provide health insurance for companies with fewer than 20 employees are required to offer continuation coverage under Maine's continuation law. (Although this law is sometimes referred to as the Maine "mini-COBRA" law, you should be aware that there are significant differences between Maine and federal laws.)  If a domestic partner is covered as a dependent under such a small group insurance plan, he or she is entitled to "mini-COBRA" continuation coverage in the same manner as any other dependent.
  2. COBRA / Yes, if the employee also elects continuation coverage: If an employer with 20 or more employees offers domestic partner coverage, the U.S. Department of Labor has interpreted the COBRA law to permit an employee with a covered domestic partner to elect COBRA benefits for both of them.

Is continuation coverage available for the domestic partner if the employee does not choose to be covered?

  1. "Mini-COBRA" / YES: Maine law entitles the employee to buy continuation coverage for either the employee, the employee and dependent(s), or only the dependent(s). However, it is the employee, not the dependent, who makes this choice.
  2. COBRA / NO: The U.S. Department of Labor has advised that if the employee does not buy COBRA coverage for himself or herself, the domestic partner is not entitled to coverage because domestic partners are not defined as “qualified beneficiaries” under COBRA. (However, you should also review your health plan and check with your employer to determine if your plan provides more rights for domestic partners than the law requires, including an independent right to buy continuation coverage.)

Are federal subsidies available for domestic partner COBRA or “mini-COBRA” coverage?

NO. Because a domestic partner is not a “qualified beneficiary” under COBRA, the subsidy will not apply to the domestic partner’s share of the premium.