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Is COBRA Creditable Coverage for Medicare

If you’re on COBRA through your previous employer and are eligible for Medicare, you probably have questions about the future of your coverage. We’re here to explain how COBRA works with Medicare and answer the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

Can You Be on Medicare and COBRA at the Same Time?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) helps employees extend benefits past employment. Qualifying events for COBRA include termination of employment or reduction in working hours. It is possible to have COBRA and Medicare coverage at the same time.

However, they don’t coordinate the same way as employer coverage and Medicare. When you have COBRA, Medicare usually pays first, and COBRA pays second. However, it’s possible that your group insurance has special rules that will determine the primary payer. Refer to your plan document for details.

It’s important to note that your COBRA coverage could be terminated before the maximum period if you become entitled to Medicare after electing to continue coverage.

Is COBRA Considered Creditable Coverage for Medicare?

To avoid penalties, you must have creditable coverage. This means coverage that’s at least equivalent to Medicare. COBRA is NOT creditable coverage. If you’re Medicare-eligible and have COBRA, you should enroll in Part B.

COBRA extends group benefits for a set period of time – up to 18 months. It’s rare for COBRA to be the best option for a Medicare-eligible person. You can usually get better coverage for less money than COBRA.

Do I Need Part B if I Have COBRA?

If you’re working past 65 and retire later, you MUST enroll in Part B within the first eight months you have COBRA even if your COBRA stays active longer than eight months.

Those who miss this timeframe will incur a Part B late penalty. If you’re on COBRA and under 65, you must enroll in Part A and Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period.

Your Initial Enrollment Period will begin three months before your 65th birthday. If you don’t join during the seven-month window, you’ll incur penalties.

Can You Get COBRA if You Retire Early?

You can get COBRA if you retire early, but it’s usually costly. It involves your premium, your employer’s contribution, and any extra amount owed to the carrier. We recommend looking into other health care options before choosing COBRA.


Is COBRA considered creditable Part D coverage?
If your COBRA is creditable drug coverage, you’ll have a Special Enrollment Period to join a Part D plan without a penalty.
Is COBRA creditable coverage for Medicare Part B?
COBRA is NOT creditable coverage for Part B. If you delay enrollment you’ll face life-time penalties. You could choose to have Medicare Part A and B, alongside COBRA. But COBRA wasn’t made for Medicare.
Does losing COBRA qualify for a Special Enrollment Period?
Medicare allows you to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you lose your employer’s current health coverage, and you’re Medicare eligible. If you have COBRA when coverage ends, you won’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period through Medicare.
Who pays first; COBRA, or Medicare?
Medicare pays first, except when you have End-Stage Renal Disease. If you have End-Stage Renal Disease, then COBRA pays first. Medicare pays second to the extent COBRA coverage overlaps the first 30 months of Medicare eligibility.

How to Get Help with Medicare and COBRA

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Lindsay Malzone

Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ. She has been working in the Medicare industry since 2017. She is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare. You can also find her over on our Medicare Channel on YouTube as well as contributing to our Medicare Community on Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Is COBRA Creditable Coverage for Medicare

  1. My husband and I are retiring in June and going on Medicare. My 21 year old son is still in college and his school does not offer medical insurance for a fee. What are our options. Thank you


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