This Paper will discuss the relevant statutes, case law and the Supreme Court's opinion in Geissal v. Moore Medical Corp. It concludes that the Supreme Court correctly reversed the Eighth Circuit's opinion in Geissal by applying the plain meaning of the statute and rejecting the "significant gap" theory. James Geissal was entitled to COBRA continuation coverage even though his wife had preexisting group health insurance coverage. The Fifth, Eleventh and Eigth Circuits' significant gap theory is not supported by the plain meaning of the statute or Congress' intent. The employee should have the choice to elect COBRA or decide whether different coverage is in his or her best interest. As long as the employee bears the risk and pays the premiums during the limited time period provided by COBRA the courts should not supplant their own views as to what constitutes adequate coverage or whether there is a significant "gap" in health insurance coverage between the employee's coverage and the spouse's coverage. Part I of this paper will provide a background analysis of the statutory provision at issue and discuss the holdings of the CIrcuit Courts of Appeal. Part II of this paper will analyze the Geissal case. Part III of this paper will conclude that the Supreme Court's opinion in the Geissal case is the only possible decision that could preserve the plain meaning of the statute and limit judicial intrusion into the group health insurance arena.
Judith E. Broston, Cobra Continuation Coverage and the Plain Reading of the Statute: Geissal v. Moore Medical Corporation, 14 J.L. & Health 1 (1999-2000)