On March 3, 2010, President Obama signed the Temporary Extension Act of 2010 (.pdf) into law. The Act provides for the continuation of the extended unemployment compensation benefit program and the availability of the COBRA premium subsidy, which expired February 28, 2010. The COBRA premium assistance program was extended to allow those involuntarily terminated through
COBRA SUBSIDY EXTENDED AND NEW COBRA NOTICES REQUIRED
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which expanded health care insurance benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The ARRA granted individuals involuntarily terminated from employment between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, a subsidy to cover 65 percent of their monthly COBRA premiums for up to nine months. The subsidy is available for individuals with an annual income of less than $125,000 (single) or $250,000 (joint filers). Individuals earning between $125,000 ($250,000 joint) and $145,000 ($290,000 joint) are eligible for "phased-in" assistance.
Under the ARRA, plan administrators are not only responsible for providing notice of the subsidy to eligible individuals, they must also pay the cost of the subsidy up front. The plan administrator may then file IRS Form 941 to claim a payroll tax credit in the amount of subsidies paid. In other words, employers must front 65 percent of eligible individuals’ COBRA premiums in exchange for a credit against their payroll taxes.
UPDATE! On December 19, 2009, President Obama signed the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (Act), which extends the COBRA premium subsidy provisions and places additional notification requirements on plan administrators. The Act provides eligible individuals with an additional six months of subsidized coverage, extending the availability of the COBRA premium subsidy from nine to 15 months. The Act also allows individuals involuntarily terminated on or before February 28, 2010 to receive the subsidy, extending the original eligibility deadline of December 31, 2009, by two months. Employees involuntarily terminated in January and February 2010 will now be eligible for the subsidy.
Furthermore, if an individual was eligible for the COBRA premium assistance under the original ARRA, and that eligibility already expired, then that individual may receive the continued premium subsidy retroactively. In order to take advantage of the retroactive coverage, the individual must pay 35 percent of the premium by February 17, 2010, or within 30 days of receipt of the extension notice described below, whichever is later. If eligible individuals already have paid the full COBRA premium, then the plan administrator must either refund the over payments or credit future premium payments.
The Act also contains additional notification requirements that require plan administrators to provide eligible individuals with information regarding the extended subsidy.…
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PA Department of Insurance Provides Mini-COBRA Guidance
Pennsylvania’s Mini-COBRA law became effective July 10, 2009. The law provides COBRA-like medical insurance continuation to employees who work for smaller business not covered by the federal law. The Department of Insurance clarified some of the coverage issues and provided a model notice for covered businesses to provide to employees. Employees who elect Mini-COBRA may…
Pennsylvania Enacts “Mini-COBRA” requiring Insurers to offer Continuation of Health Coverage Options for Employees of Small Businesses
Effective July 10, 2009, medical insurers covering small employers in Pennsylvania will be required to offer COBRA-like continuation coverage to qualified employees and their eligible dependents. The new law covers small employers who have between two and 19 employees on a typical business day during the preceding calendar year.
The so-called mini-COBRA coverage expands on the…
Important IRS clarification of COBRA Subsidy Provisions
On March 31, 2009, the IRS issued a notice relating to premium assistance for COBRA continuation coverage under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Notice 2009-27 contains many helpful clarifications on the following topics:
- INVOLUNTARY TERMINATION
- ASSISTANCE ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUAL
- CALCULATION OF PREMIUM REDUCTION
- COVERAGE ELIGIBLE FOR PREMIUM REDUCTION
- RECAPTURE OF PREMIUM ASSISTANCE
New COBRA Model Notice for ARRA Compliance Published by DOL
The Department of Labor Published Model Cobra Notices implementing the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Individuals eligible for the special COBRA election period described above also must receive a notice informing them of this opportunity. This notice must be provided within 60 days following February 17, 2009. Plan administrators must provide…
IRS Releases Information for Employers to Claim COBRA Assistance Credit on Payroll Tax Form
On February 26, 2009, the Internal Revenue Service released detailed information that will help employers claim credit for the COBRA medical premiums they pay for their former employees.
Under the new law, eligible former employees, enrolled in their employer’s health plan at the time they lost their jobs, are required to pay only 35 percent…
Premium Assistance for COBRA Benefits a part of Stimulus Legislation
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has passed both the House and Senate and awaits the President’s signature. The substance of the Act as it relates to COBRA continuation subsidies is as follows:
COBRA Subsidy: Eligible Employees who are involuntarily separated from employment can receive a 65% subsidy toward COBRA premiums for up to 9…