Health Insurance Benefits
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
Health insurance is one of the most important benefits gained by working aside from base pay. Healthcare can be so expensive -- even basic doctor bills can eat up a working family's paycheck, to say nothing of the bankruptcies caused by medical disasters -- that it often is just as important as your salary. Consequently, the federal government and many states have enacted protections for employees' health insurance. COBRA is the federal program which allows fired employees to continue under their former employer's health plan, which is often less expensive than most individual health insurance place. ERISA governs the health benefits available to seniors. Click on the articles below to learn more.
ERISA and Healthcare Plan Enforcement
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a 1974 law that determines how private employers and pension or insurance companies may administer employee benefit programs including healthcare plans. ERISA covers pensions, health, disability, death, severance, pre-paid legal services, scholarship funds, apprenticeship and training programs, and employer-operated day care centers. It does not cover state-law required and administrated by state law such as worker's compensation and unemployment.
ERISA requires that plans be administrated for the "exclusive benefit" of plan participants and beneficiaries. Plans must be structured to avoid conflicts of interest when making investment and benefit decisions. Employers must make disclosures to the government and covered employees and comply with guidelines regulating how and where the plan funds can be invested.
COBRA Insurance Rights
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) is a federal insurance coverage program that requires employers to provide a temporary continuation of group health coverage to full and part-time employees that voluntarily resign or are terminated for any reason other than "gross misconduct." COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees within its group health plan on more than 50% of the business days of the previous calendar year. The employee at issue must have been a "qualifying beneficiary" covered by a group health plan prior to the termination of employment as an employee, an employee's spouse, or an employee's dependent child. Qualifying individuals must continue to make premium payments during the period of coverage.
Domestic Partner Employment Benefits
Domestic partners are unmarried couples that share a committed relationship with one another that are exclusive, financially independent, at least 18 years old, and not so closely related that they couldn't legally marry. Although domestic partners are eligible for benefits in many states they frequently offer fewer and cheaper benefits than are available to spouses of employees. Some states provide a system by which domestic partners can register their relationship, while others require a waiting period of six months to a year before a partner is eligible to apply for benefits. Other jurisdictions limit the availability of domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples, though it is unclear whether this will persist following the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the court made same-sex marriage available throughout the country.
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