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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

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Churches exempt from COBRA

originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If you notice an error or are in doubt, please send a new question by email or ask for an update. Email

Q: I contacted the Department of Labor and they told me that religious organizations are not required to offer COBRA benefits to former employees.

A: The federal law allows an exemption to churches and church-sponsored plans and it appears that some religious organizations extend that definition to include church-affiliated non-profit organizations. This is important because many state open enrollment health plans require an applicant to exhaust COBRA benefits first before being admitted to the state assigned risk plan under HIPAA law. Some people have reported that the state does not recognize the church-affiliate exemption as a valid reason for admission into the state HIPAA plan. The Web site was recently updated to include information on this exemption, how to get more information on COBRA issues. If you qualify, a short term medical plan is the best alternative to COBRA.


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