This is an issue that has become very close to my heart as I joined the ranks of the unemployed recently. And while I applied for UI today, the availability of health insurance is far more crucial to my peace of mind.
That being said, this piece from the law firm of Moore and VanAllen is a great resource for employers and the unemployed both.
The premium subsidy for a terminated employee’s first nine months of COBRA continuation coverage was an important feature in last year’s federal stimulus law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”). One of Congress’s last acts before its Holiday recess was to amend ARRA in an effort to preserve healthcare coverage for many who lost their jobs during the current economic downturn. The ARRA amendment, buried in a massive Defense appropriations bill, does three things:
- Extends the nine-month subsidy to 15 months.
- Expands eligibility for the subsidy to employees who are terminated through February 28, 2010. (Otherwise, employees who lost their jobs after December 31, 2009 would not have been eligible for the premium subsidy.)
- Provides relief for employees who lost their COBRA coverage when the nine-month subsidy ended or who paid the full premium thereafter in order to keep their coverage. Employees who lost coverage can restore it by a retroactive payment of 35% of the back premium(s). Employees who paid the full premium can now get a credit against future COBRA premiums or receive a refund check from their employer for the overpayment.
This is great news for anyone whose involuntary release occurred prior to the recent extension.
After all, some of us need all the good news we can get.