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Inquiry. 1994 Summer;31(2):215-20.

COBRA qualifying events and elections, 1987-1991.

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Urban Institute, Washington DC 20037.


The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) represents the first national employer mandate to address the problems associated with lost employment-related health insurance. This paper presents findings from two unique data sets on the incidence of COBRA coverage, election rates by type of qualifying event, and the demographic and labor market characteristics of covered individuals for the period 1987-1991. An estimated 1.3 million adults, aged 40 to 64, used COBRA in 1988. Nearly two-thirds had insurance in their own names, and the remaining third were dependents. From 1987 to 1991, 22% of those experiencing qualifying events elected to use COBRA. While work-related qualifying events were more prevalent than family-related events, election rates were higher in cases of family-related events. The information gained on the use of COBRA serves as a basis for the future design of a health insurance system that allows portability of benefits across jobs.

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