For Consumers

What is COBRA?

COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) is a federal law that allows you and any of your immediate family members to stay on an employer-sponsored health plan under certain circumstances. 

For example:

  • You lose or quit your job.
  • You divorce the employee.
  • The employee dies.
  • You lost coverage due to your age as a dependent.

For a detailed list of qualifying events, go to the U.S. Dept. of Labor's website (

COBRA doesn't apply to everyone

  • COBRA applies only to employers with 20 or more workers in the previous year.
  • State and local governments fall under COBRA, but federal plans and certain religious organizations do not. Federal employees have some similar rights under another law. Ask your human resource department for more information.
  • COBRA generally doesn't apply if you lose your job for “gross misconduct.”.

Coverage can be expensive

  • Employees who select COBRA must pay the entire premium including the part previously paid by their employer, plus a 2% administrative fee.
  • Instead of COBRA, see if you qualify to buy a health plan through the Washington Healthplanfinder ( and receive a subsidy to help pay your insurance premiums.
  • If you enroll in COBRA and later decide to switch to a health plan through the Washington Healthplanfinder, you may have to wait until the next open enrollment period.

Where to go for more help

Information for where to find more COBRA resources
General COBRA questionsCOBRA laws and specific questionsPublic sector employees with COBRA questions

Call our Insurance Consumer Hotline

Send us a message

U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Seattle District Office

300 Fifth Ave., Ste. 1110
Seattle, WA 98104
Call 206-757-6781
Fax 206-757-6662

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

7500 Security Blvd.
Mail Stop: C1-22-06
Baltimore, MD 21244-1850
Call 877-267-2323, ext. 61565
Email CMS