Medicare entitlement (i.e. eligible & enrolled) is only a COBRA qualifying event (QE) if it causes an employee to lose group health coverage (i.e. under 20 lives, or retiree plan). Otherwise, due to Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) rules, Medicare entitlement is not a COBRA QE for the employee.
Likewise if the employee voluntarily drops group coverage because they enroll on Medicare and as a result, the dependents (e.g. spouse) then lose employer coverage, this also is not a COBRA QE for the dependents. Medicare entitlement didn’t “cause” the loss of eligibility, rather the employee deciding to drop the employer’s group coverage did.
In other words, when an employee drops their employer’s plan because they enrolled in Medicare, the spouse should not be offered COBRA coverage, but it happens all the time.
Although this is something often incorrectly administered, it is a potential MSP issue because it could be viewed as an incentive for the employee to drop the group plan in favor of Medicare (knowing the spouse will have continuation coverage).
Employees who are turning 65 may also need additional education, to allow them to make an informed decision when deciding whether to enroll on Medicare in lieu of their employer’s plan.