UBP blog

12/22/2009

New defense bill extends COBRA subsidy and subsidy eligibility

Inside the new $626 billion dollar defense bill that Congress just passed (and the President is expected to sign) is a provision extending the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) COBRA subsidy.

For assistance eligible individuals (AEIs), the new legislation will:

  • Extend the eligibility for the 65% COBRA subsidy from December 31, 2009 to February 28, 2010 (making workers whose COBRA eligibility begins on or before 2/28/2010 now eligible for the subsidy)
  • Adds 6 months to the 9 month period during which the federal government would pay the 65% subsidy to Assistance Eligible Individuals’ COBRA premiums

Also, the legislation will give beneficiaries whose subsidy ran out and who did not pay the full COBRA premium, a second chance to opt for coverage. For example, if an AEI’s subsidy eligibility ran out on November 30, 2009 and they did not pay the regular, unsubsidized COBRA premium for December, they could opt to pay their 35% share of the premium in January and get coverage for December.

What employers need to do:

Provided that President Obama signs this bill into law, employers will need to do the following:

  • Notify current and future COBRA beneficiaries of the new 15 month subsidy
  • Notify current and future COBRA beneficiaries of the subsidy’s new deadline of February 28, 2010

 The ARRA Act COBRA subsidy has greatly increased the number of terminated employees who take COBRA.

As employers, you should expect a high percentage of those who elected COBRA under the subsidy plan and have not found employment yet to continue COBRA under this extension. So don’t be guilty of failure to notify them about this benefit.

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11/11/2009

House bill could extend Federal COBRA subsidy by 6 months

The House of Representatives introduced a new bill that would extend the ARRA Act’s COBRA premium subsidy 6 months. The bill would also extend COBRA subsidy eligibility to a new group of laid off workers.

COBRA Subsidy Recap:

As you may already know, the government passed a law giving employees who  were  “involuntarily terminated” between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, a 65% COBRA health care premium subsidy.  The COBRA subsidy became available to these Assistance Eligible Individuals (AEIs) March 1, 2009. AEIs could collect the subsidy for 9 months or until their COBRA eligibility ran out, whichever came first.  

If the House’s proposed bill becomes a law, here’s what would happen:

  1. The COBRA subsidy would be available to AEIs for 15 months.
  2. Individuals who were laid off between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010 would become eligible for the subsidy.

COBRA subsidy doubles election rate:

In the time since the ARRA Act’s COBRA subsidy became effective, the number of Assistance Eligible Individuals (AEIs) opting for COBRA coverage doubled to 38%. This is a clear message that people want health insurance and will pay for it when the premium becomes more affordable. The Obama administration is currently looking into whether or not the subsidy should be extended. 

As of now, we don’t know if it will be extended or if more workers will become eligible, but you can definitely count on us to keep you posted.

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