Problem:

Ms. M had an employer group health plan as her primary insurance and Medicare Part A as her secondary insurance. Ms. M was laid off and became eligible for COBRA through her employer. She wanted to know how COBRA works with Medicare.

What To Do:

Ms. M called the Medicare Coordination of Benefits Hotline (1-800-999-1118) and learned that once she stops working, COBRA will be secondary to Medicare. The representative said she should enroll in Medicare Part B during her eight-month Special Enrollment Period (which starts the month after the month she stops working). Ms. M also learned that she can keep COBRA for the full 18 months she is entitled to it in order to take advantage of the extensive prescription drug coverage her COBRA plan offers. However, COBRA can be very expensive. Ms. M could also look at whether she could save money by buying a Medigap policy that will supplement her Medicare hospital and doctor bills, and joining a Medicare private drug (Part D) plan that may cover her prescription drug costs.

Note: Ms. M can have both COBRA and Medicare only because she was eligible for Medicare before she became eligible for COBRA. If she had COBRA before being eligible for Medicare, her COBRA coverage would terminate when she became eligible for Medicare.

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