COBRA Coverage while on Involuntary Furlough
October 13, 2020
It’s been a full 12 days since October 1st when the Involuntary Furlough started. We’ve received a number of questions from those in Involuntary Furlough with the primary question being – What happens to my healthcare and what do I need to do to keep it?”
We want to start by first acknowledging that there is a difference between what is actually happening and what appears in the current 2020 Involuntary Furlough Informational Packet. Further, it’s important to understand that COBRA gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss. Typically, the employee is required to elect coverage and premiums must be paid before COBRA coverage becomes active.
In recent days, United management, recognizing that a number of us would become eligible for COBRA as a result of the Reduction in Force, worked with our Benefits Administrator to auto-enroll affected Flight Attendants in COBRA. Specifically, for medical, dental and vision coverage. We want to be clear, this was a good thing that was intended to assist in reducing the number of telephone calls to the UABC. Unfortunately, the Involuntary Furlough Information packet was not updated and, it would seem, not everyone has seen the company publication advising that auto-enrollment into COBRA had occurred.
We’ve received a lot of feedback on long waits for a Benefits representative and we understand your frustration at not being able to get through.
We support the auto-enrollment decision and recognize that this was done to expedite processing for the large number of employees affected. From the employee perspective, it is also helpful to understand that auto-enrollment doesn’t commit you to any coverage. If you want to continue coverage, you go onto YBR and pay for the coverage. If you don’t want it, don’t pay it. It’s a no harm, no foul approach.
Perhaps another source of misunderstanding lies in the fact that coverage is not activated until the COBRA premium is paid. Even though you’ve been auto-enrolled in the coverage you had just prior to being separated from United, your physician or other provider’s office may advise you that records show no coverage. This is true until the premium is paid at which time your coverage is reinstated effective to October 1, 2020. Any services you may have obtained while coverage was not yet effective can be submitted for reimbursement under the plan in which you are enrolled.
Finally, we understand that there is tremendous frustration with not being able to find the invoice for premiums dues. The timing of this furlough activity couldn’t have happened at a worse time – that is, during the time when the company is planning for next year’s open enrollment. As a result, some of the activities to prepare invoices for coverage were delayed until October 10th which has delayed preparation and receipt of invoices for coverage. Our MEC Benefits Committee continues to pursue resolution of this issue with the company Benefits group. In addition, we’re seeking clarification as to if, and when, the Wellness Credit is applied for those who are receiving benefits for 90 days on the same basis of an active employee. We hope to have answers shortly and will communicate additional information in Friday’s E-lines.