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COBRA simply entitles a departing employee to stay on their employer's group health plan by paying the entirety of the monthly premiums. This is an attractive option for some employees because the group plan premium will usually be less than the cost of comparable coverage procured independently. The unfortunate thing is that if the employer not longer has a group health insurance plan (i.e. they are going bankrupt), then it is impossible for an employee to avail themselves of the benefits of COBRA. Put simply, you can't stay on a plan that no longer exists.
So, if your employer is discontinuing its group health plan, I'm afraid that there would be no COBRA rights to exercise and your union would be correct.
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