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Understanding SSDI and COBRA for Disability Benefits


If you experience a long-term, disabling medical condition and cannot work, you may face a difficult decision involving your medical insurance going forward. Though you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), there could be a significant time lag until you start receiving benefits. Fortunately, you can also consider continuing your employer’s health care plan through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). A Maryland SSDI attorney can explain how SSDI and COBRA work together, and advise you on whether this option is a smart choice for your situation.

Relationship of COBRA and SSDI: Federal law requires certain employers to offer COBRA insurance to departing employees, which allows them to continue their health care coverage for a limited time after leaving. You must pay the premiums directly, but you will receive the same benefits you did while employed, for a period up to 18 months. COBRA can pay for the much-needed medical care you may require after becoming disabled, filling the gap while you wait for approval on an SSDI claim. 

Some answers to frequently asked questions may help you understand the relationships between SSDI and COBRA.

How does eligibility work for COBRA and SSDI? COBRA requires employers with 20 or more employees to offer a continuation of coverage after they leave their job, such as a departure due to a disability. You are responsible for 100 percent of the cost, however. Without the contribution of your employer, your COBRA premiums could be considerable. Still, the cost may be worth having health care coverage, as you could incur exorbitant medical bills for treating your disability.

What does COBRA cover? Your COBRA coverage is a continuation of the insurance you carried when you worked for your employer, so it will be the same after you exit your job. You can keep your primary care physician, and will still be responsible for paying any out-of-pocket co-pays for appointments or prescription medications.

Do I qualify for SSDI? Eligibility for SSDI is a much more complicated matter. If your disability appears on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments, you may qualify by virtue of your medical records alone. However, most applicants do not squarely fit into the descriptions of medical conditions in the Blue Book. You must prove your right to SSDI benefits by showing how your illness or injury limits your ability to work. 

What about Medicare? You become eligible to receive Medicare health care benefits 24 months after your onset of disability. It is possible to extend your COBRA benefits for an additional 11 months after you begin receiving SSDI benefits, for a total of 29 months after you leave your job. The COBRA extension will then carry you through to the point when Medicare kicks in.

Talk to an SSDI Lawyer About Long-Term Disability and COBRA Benefits 

For answers to additional questions about COBRA and SSDI, please contact the Law Offices of Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC. We can review your circumstances and explain your options after conducting a free consultation.

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