The primary difference between COBRA and Cal-COBRA continuing health care plans is that COBRA is a federal law, while Cal-COBRA is a law exclusive to California. Additionally, both laws vary with regards to cost, length of coverage and administration.
Both laws provide extended coverage to employees and their dependents when a qualifying event results in the loss of coverage. However, Cal-COBRA is locally administered and only applies to California employers with two to 19 non-government employees or to those California businesses with more than 20 employees whose coverage under COBRA has expired. In contrast, COBRA requires all domestic employers with 20 or more non-government employees to offer continued coverage when a qualifying event results in the termination of a group-sponsored plan.
The duration of continued coverage also varies between COBRA and Cal-COBRA. COBRA grants between 18 to 36 months of continued coverage, while Cal-COBRA provides between 18 to 29 months of extended coverage. The specific duration of extended coverage for both COBRA and Cal-COBRA is based on the qualifying event in question.
Both plans charge a premium for extended coverage. For COBRA, employees must pay the full cost of the plan up to 102 percent of the group rate. While Cal-COBRA imposes costs between 110 to 150 percent of the group rate.