COBRA benefits for family members in the US

Q: I have resigned from my job (Boston) where I was covered through COBRA with my wife and son. I came back to India. Can my wife and son (living still in Boston) still continue that insurance with COBRA by paying for just two of them without my signature for their insurance to continue?

A: Your question concerns health care coverage, a subject that has been the subject of vigorous discussion on both the local and national levels for some time. In particular, your inquiry concerns the circumstances under which you and your dependents are eligible for continued health care coverage under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, commonly referred to as COBRA. Pursuant to COBRA, an employee who is covered by an employer’s group health care plan may continue such coverage for themselves, their spouses and/or their qualified beneficiaries for a certain period of time (usually 18 months, but can be longer under certain circumstances) provided that all qualifying conditions are met.

I consulted Jeffrey A. Dretler, Esq., a partner at Prince, Lobel, Glovsky and Tye. Dretler provided this information on your particular situation:

You have indicated that you resigned from your employment with a Boston-based employer and that you, your wife and son elected to continue participation in your employer’s group health plan pursuant to COBRA. You have now moved to India, and are wondering whether your wife and son are eligible to continue their health care coverage pursuant to COBRA “without [your] signature for their insurance to continue.” ¬†Assuming that you, your wife and son satisfy all the requirements for continued health care coverage pursuant to COBRA, including that the applicable time period for continuation coverage under COBRA has not expired, the company continues to maintain a group health plan, the premiums are being paid in full on a timely basis, and they are not covered under another group health plan or eligible for Medicare, the sole fact that you moved to India would not impact the eligibility of your wife and son for continued health care coverage. In fact, your wife and son, assuming they are qualified beneficiaries as defined in COBRA, have an independent right to elect and continue health care coverage under COBRA even if you did not choose it for them or if you elect not to continue it for yourself. Thus, your unavailability to sign certain documents on behalf of your wife and son should not impact their eligibility for continued health care coverage under COBRA.

Additionally,¬†your former employer’s HR/Benefits office should have provided written information on COBRA and your rights. For more information about COBRA, visit

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