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.Continue Reading COBRA SUBSIDY EXTENDED AND NEW COBRA NOTICES REQUIRED

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

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:


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

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