What do supervisors need to know about HIPAA and COBRA laws?

HIPAA and COBRA are two of the most important acronyms of the endless list that an HR professional learns in his career. These two laws on health care and insurance are very important for former employees and current employees. Occasionally you will be asked to train supervisors about these two laws to improve the flow of information and reduce incorrect information. There are many key points that you should include when explaining them.

HIPAA Overview

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 provides protection to the worker against denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions. The law states that you can only be excluded from coverage for a pre-existing condition if you have received counseling, diagnosis or care for the condition during the six months prior to the date of hiring, as long as you have maintained creditable insurance within 63 days before hiring. The law guarantees access to individual and renewable medical insurance. It also protects against discrimination to be hired while having a medical condition. The “privacy rule” of HIPAA gives you rights to your health care information.

Main considerations of HIPAA

Although supervisors need to understand the main HIPAA terms related to buying insurance, the discrimination provision needs even more training. Clearly explain to supervisors that you cannot discuss pre-existing medical conditions in an interview in any way beyond asking if the candidate can perform the job functions with reasonable accommodations. The HIPAA privacy rule does not apply directly to your employer. However, if your employer calls your doctor to verify your illness, the doctor will refuse to give this information. Employers will normally require a doctor’s note, completely legal regarding HIPAA.

Overview of the COBRA law

The Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) was passed in 1986 to guarantee the right of employees to continue their medical insurance after leaving their job under certain provisions. In order for an employer to be required to provide COBRA coverage, 20 or more employees must have been part of the collective health insurance plan the previous year. Vital events that activate COBRA availability include the involuntary loss of employment that was not caused by a serious act of misconduct, a reduction in working hours, Medicare availability, loss of dependent status for children, divorce or legal separation of the covered employee, or his death.

COBRA main considerations

One of the main points in COBRA training for a supervisor is to explain the deadlines. Instructs the supervisor to discuss their rights regarding COBRA during employee exit interviews, including their right to promulgate COBRA within 60 days of written notice of benefit. Explain to supervisors that the employee must pay the full premium up to 102 percent of the plan’s cost, or larger amounts if the employee is using the disability provision that is part of COBRA. Explain that premiums can change but only annually.