COBRA Subsidy Extended in Temporary Extension Act of 2010
As we previously reported, one of the more significant items for employers in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 (ARRA) was a temporary federal subsidy of COBRA premiums that employees pay to continue their health care coverage after they lose their jobs. ARRA provided that effective March 1, 2009, the government would temporarily pick up 65% of the total cost of the COBRA continuation premium that an eligible employee would otherwise have to pay for the first nine months of continued coverage. This subsidy was limited to employees who were “involuntarily terminated” from employment between September 1, 2008, and December 31, 2009.
ARRA was amended on December 19, 2009 by the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010 (DOD Act) to extend the COBRA premium reduction eligibility period to cover involuntary terminations occurring on or before February 28, 2010, and to increase the maximum period for receiving the subsidy from nine to 15 months. Individuals who reached the end of the reduced premium period before the legislation extended it to 15 months will have an extension of their grace period to pay the reduced premium. The DOD Act amendments also provided for additional notices to eligible employees. The amended notice requirements include a requirement for Plan administrators to provide notice about the changes made to the premium reduction provisions to individuals who have already been provided a COBRA election notice (unless the election notice included the updated premium reduction information).
On March 2, 2010, ARRA was again amended, this time by the Temporary Extension Act of 2010 (TEA). TEA extends the COBRA premium reduction eligibility period for “involuntary terminations” to March 31, 2010. TEA also expands the group of individuals who are eligible for the reduced premium to employees (and their eligible family members) who lost health coverage due to reduction in hours during the period of September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2010 and who are involuntarily terminated between March 2, 2010 and March 31, 2010. With respect to terminations, TEA provides that the employer’s determination as “involuntary” will be deemed correct if the determination is “reasonable” and documentation supporting the determination, including a written attestation of it, is maintained. Finally, TEA clarifies that the notice requirements provided for by the DOD Act.
COBRA and the amendments providing for the federal premium reduction are complicated. This notice is not intended to provide comprehensive or detailed guidance. We strongly recommend that employers immediately contact their COBRA Administrator to ensure timely compliance with the amended COBRA requirements.
If you have questions regarding this issue or any labor/employment issue, please feel free to contact Peter R. Rich,
, or any member of Spilman’s Labor & Employment team.
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