The COBRA Initial Notice – Are You Compliant?
Did you know that one of the most important COBRA notices is the “initial notice” or what is referred to as the “general rights notice”? Properly providing this notice is frequently overlooked by employers or the method of delivery does not meet COBRA compliance regulations. Noncompliance can result in adverse consequences such as litigation and penalties of up to $110 per day.
Providing the initial notice to both covered employees and covered spouses is one of the basic requirements of COBRA law. DOL regulations include specific detailed requirements for the contents of the notice and the timing of its delivery. The initial notice communicates to plan participants their COBRA rights and obligations and must be furnished by the plan administrator within 90 days after coverage begins.
Often employers mistakenly provide the initial notice to the employee by hand delivery at a benefits orientation meeting when first enrolling in a plan. This common method of notification can increase an employer’s exposure to future liability in that there is no documented proof that the notice was sent to or received by the employee’s covered spouse.
A one time “Catch-up” mailing can ensure covered employees and spouses have been given the initial COBRA notice in a timely and accurate manner which will eliminate future disputes, facilitate smooth COBRA administration, and help reduce overall COBRA benefits costs.