The most recent iteration of the current jobs bill being considered by the Senate has stripped out a second extension of the 65% COBRA subsidy for certain laid-off workers, according to the Christian Science Monitor (2/11).
With Congress back in session this week, we should get an idea of whether the subsidy will be added back in, considered in a different bill, or allowed to expire on March 1.
California workers at smaller companies who qualify for Cal-Cobra, not COBRA, may also eligible for the subsidy if they are involuntarily terminated before March 1. You can find detailed information from the Department of Managed Healthcare.
The U.S. Department of Labor has provided clarification to the eligibility guidelines for the 65% COBRA under the current ARRA legislation.
Because employees of California small groups are typically covered through the end of the month in which they are terminated, they are not eligible for COBRA (or Cal-Cobra) until the first day of the following month. For December terminations, that means January 1, 2010 — one day after the eligibility period for the subsidy expires.
The DOL points out that this is based on current legislation. There is a pending bill in the Senate as well as a House counterpart, both of which would extend the eligibility period, and the length of the subsidy for new and current beneficiaries of the subsidy.
12/22/2009 UPDATE: President Obama has signed a bill extending the COBRA subsidy. The eligibility period for laid-off employees is extended two months, to February 28, 2010. The benefit period is extended six months (to a maximum of 15 total). The extended benefit period applies to the newly qualified and to those who have been receiving the subsidy under the original legislation. Story here, from the WSJ.
Here is a good, succinct summary from the California Department of Managed Healthcare. This is targeted towards employees, though employers may also find some useful information.
If Congress doesn’t vote to extend the federal subsidy for COBRA and state continuation coverage (Cal-Cobra in California), many unemployed individuals and families will soon find the cost of their health insurance going up by about 300%.
Insurance carriers have administered this subsidy for small employers subject to Cal-Cobra (2-19 employees), but businesses with 20+ employees will want to pay close attention to what Congress does.