Continuation of benefits

When you experience a job change or life event that results in a loss of benefits, you are eligible to continue your health, dental and life insurance coverage at your own cost for a certain length of time that is determined by the qualifying event.

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Continuation coverage (COBRA)

Under a federal law known as COBRA and Minnesota state law, an employee, spouse, or other covered dependent who experiences a qualifying event has the right to continue health coverage, dental coverage, and/or life insurance through Hennepin County’s group insurance program. The duration of continuation coverage is determined by the qualifying event.

Qualifying events and duration of coverage

  • Termination of employment — The employee (and his/her dependents, if covered) may continue coverage for up to 18 months.
  • Reduction in work hours below benefit-earning status — The employee (and his/her dependents, if covered) may continue coverage for up to 18 months.
  • Dependent loses eligibility as a dependent (examples) — The dependent may continue coverage for up to 36 months.
  • Divorce or legal separation — The covered spouse and dependent children may continue coverage until they become covered under another group plan or Medicare, whichever occurs first.
  • Death — Covered family members may continue health and/or dental coverage for a period determined by the deceased employee’s age. Contact Benefits for details.

Continuation coverage available to qualified beneficiaries

  • Benefit-earning employees
  • Dependents covered under the employee’s health and/or dental policy if the coverage is in force at the time of the qualifying event

Payment administrator

Payments for the benefit(s) you elect to continue (e.g., health, dental, life insurance and/or flexible spending account) are collected and processed by 121 Benefits.

Notification responsibilities

When is 121 Benefits required to send notice?

121 Benefits automatically issues an offer to continue coverage to employees who terminate their employment or reduce their work hours below benefit-earning status. The offer is mailed to the employee’s address listed in the APEX system.

When is the employee or dependent required to send notice?

The employee or dependent is required to send notice when the dependent loses eligibility for dependent coverage. Submit the family status change form (DOC) within 30 days of the change. The notice must be in writing — no verbal notifications or emails are accepted.

Dependents lose eligibility when:

  • Child attains age 26
  • Divorce or legal separation

Dependent coverage terminates at the end of the month in which the event occurs (i.e., 26th birthday, date of divorce).

Election period

The qualified beneficiary has 60 days to elect to continue coverage. This 60-day election period begins on the date of loss of coverage OR the date of 121 Benefit’s continuation offer, whichever is later. If continuation coverage is elected, there cannot be a gap in coverage; therefore, continuation premiums are required back to the date of loss of coverage.

Note — If continuation coverage is not elected within the 60-day election period, continuation rights are forfeited.

If the qualified beneficiary elects continuation coverage, he/she has 45 days from the date of election to pay all continuation premiums due retroactive to the date of loss of coverage. Continuation coverage, however, will not be activated until premiums are paid.

Payment of premiums

Detailed payment instructions and deadlines are provided at the time continuation coverage is offered. In summary, continuation coverage is not activated until initial premiums are paid. Thereafter, premiums must be submitted to 121 Benefits by the first of each month to provide coverage for that month. You will have a 30-day grace period each month to remit your premium for that month's coverage. In the event 121 Benefits does not receive the required premium, continuation coverage is terminated and continuation rights are forfeited.


Continuation coverage is terminated if any of the following events occur:

  • Failure to pay premium in full on time
  • The qualified beneficiary becomes covered under another group plan that does not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion for a pre-existing condition
  • The qualified beneficiary is determined, either by the county or the applicable plan, to be ineligible for continuation coverage (fraud)
  • The qualified beneficiary becomes covered under Medicare (Part A, Part B, or both)
  • The qualified beneficiary requests termination of continuation coverage
  • Hennepin County terminates the applicable benefit for all of its employees

Conversion coverage

When a qualified beneficiary is no longer eligible for continuation coverage through Hennepin County's group insurance program, conversion coverage (health coverage and life insurance only), is available. Conversion coverage does not require satisfactory evidence of insurability if application is made no later than 30 days following the date continuation coverage terminates. Information about conversion coverage (cost, benefits, application procedure) must be obtained directly from the health and/or life insurance plan.

Benefits continuation while on unpaid leave of absence

Notice to continue benefits

You will receive a notice to continue the benefits for which you are eligible from 121 Benefits, the county’s benefits continuation/leave administrator. This notice will be mailed to your home approximately three to four weeks after the date you are placed on inactive leave.

If you have any questions concerning your notice to continue benefits, contact 121 Benefits.

The notice will include two important items

  • A benefit  continuation election form for you to complete and return to 121 Benefits
  • An auto-pay form to complete and return to 121 Benefits which allows your premiums to be deducted from a designated bank account

If you do not receive your notice by the end of the timeframe noted above, contact the Human Resources Benefits Unit. Failure to inform the Benefits Unit could delay your smooth transition to continue your coverage.

Election form and election period

You have 14 days from the date of 121 Benefit’s notice to complete and return your benefit continuation election form. You must indicate what benefits you wish to continue and those you choose to decline. Return your completed form to 121 Benefits at the address provided on the form. If you have any questions about the election form or the premiums shown, contact 121 Benefits.

If you do not complete and return the election form by the deadline indicated above or if you fail to pay required premiums as indicated in the materials you will receive, you will lose your eligibility for continuation coverage and your benefits will remain terminated until you return from leave.

Important information regarding continuation coverage

  • Continuation premiums must be received by 121 Benefits by the first of the month in order to have coverage for that month.
  • Failure to pay premiums on time will result in cancellation of your Hennepin County continuation coverage for any benefits for which premium is not paid.
  • Once continuation coverage is cancelled for any benefit you continue, you will be subject to benefits re-enrollment rules when you return from leave.
  • Continuation premiums may be paid via personal check. 121 Benefit’s offer to continue coverage will include an opportunity for you to pay these premiums via Automated Clearing House (ACH) which will automatically debit your designated bank account each month for the amount of all of your continuation premiums.

If you have questions about your benefits eligibility, plan design, or rates charged while on continuation, email

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

On August 21, 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) [Public Law 104-191], was enacted. HIPAA changed the continuation coverage requirements under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) that apply to Hennepin County's group health/dental insurance program. HIPAA also requires that qualified beneficiaries be notified of certain HIPAA changes to COBRA that may affect their COBRA rights. The new requirements are summarized below. They are generally effective January 1, 1997, regardless of whether the qualifying event occurred before, on, or after that date.

  • Under COBRA, if the qualifying event is a termination or reduction in hours of employment, affected qualified beneficiaries are entitled to continue coverage for up to 18 months after the qualifying event, subject to timely premium payments. Before HIPAA, this 18-month period could be extended for up to 11 months (for a total COBRA coverage period of up to 29 months from the initial qualifying event) if an individual was determined under the Social Security Act to have been disabled at the time of the qualifying event and if the plan administrator was notified of that disability determination within 60 days of the determination and before the end of the original 18-month period. Under the new law, if a qualified beneficiary is determined to be disabled under the Social Security Act at any time during the first 60 days of COBRA coverage, the 11-month extension is available to all individuals who are qualified beneficiaries due to the termination or reduction in hours of employment. The disabled individual can be a covered employee or any other qualified beneficiary. However, to be eligible for the 11-month extension, affected individuals must still comply with the notice requirements in a timely fashion.
  • A child that is born to or placed for adoption with the covered employee during a period of COBRA coverage will be eligible to become a qualified beneficiary. In accordance with the terms of the Hennepin County's group health/dental insurance program and the requirements of federal law, these qualified beneficiaries can be added to COBRA coverage upon proper notification to 121 Benefits of the birth or adoption.
  • Under COBRA, your right to continuation coverage terminates if you become covered by another employers group health plan that does not limit or exclude coverage for your pre-existing conditions. If you become covered by another group health plan and that plan contains a pre-existing condition limitation that affects you, your COBRA continuation coverage cannot be terminated. However, if the other plan's pre-existing condition rule does not apply to you by reason of HIPAAs restrictions on pre-existing condition clauses, 121 Benefits may terminate your COBRA coverage. 

Important notice of your right to documentation of your health plan coverage

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) limits the circumstances under which health coverage may be excluded for medical conditions present before you enroll in a new health plan.

In the event you terminate your benefit-earning Hennepin County employment and become covered by another group health plan, you have the right to receive a Certificate of Health Plan Coverage to document the health coverage you maintained, as a county employee, dating retroactive to July 1, 1996. You may need to provide this certificate to document your Hennepin County health coverage if your new health plan excludes coverage for pre-existing conditions.

If you terminate your Hennepin County employment on or after June 1, 1997, you will automatically receive a Certificate of Health Plan Coverage. You may need to provide it to your new employer or your new health plan.

For further information, visit U.S. Department of Labor COBRA Continuation Coverage.

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