Does COBRA's Retroactive Coverage Feature Encourage Delayed Enrollment?

10 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2013

See all articles by David M. Zimmer

David M. Zimmer

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: January 2013


The Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985, which aimed to protect individuals experiencing employment separation from losing employer‐provided health insurance, contains a feature that is unusual among health insurance markets. Individuals eligible for COBRA have 60 days following employment separation to elect coverage, and if they elect, coverage is retroactive back to the date of employment separation. This paper investigates whether employment separators take advantage of COBRA's retroactive coverage provision by delaying enrollment until after incurring medical expenses. Results indicate that an individual whose household incurs medical expenses during the months after employment separation is approximately 1−10 percentage points more likely to subsequently enroll in COBRA, depending on the magnitude of expenses.

JEL Classification: I18, I11

Suggested Citation

Zimmer, David M., Does COBRA's Retroactive Coverage Feature Encourage Delayed Enrollment? (January 2013). Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 31, Issue 1, pp. 135-144, 2013, Available at SSRN: or

David M. Zimmer (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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