Extension of COBRA Premium Subsidy Under Consideration

As will likely come as no suprise, Congress is considering extending and expanding the “COBRA Premium Subsidy” rules for group health plans enacted by Congress on February 17, 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) beyond their currently scheduled December 31, 2009 expiration date and further to restrict the amount that group health plans can charge former employees and their dependents covered by the COBRA Premium Subsidy rules to maintain coverage under the coverage continuation mandates of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended (“COBRA”). COBRA generally allows employee and dependents who otherwise would lose eligibility for group health benefits under union or employer sponsored plans temporarily to continue enrollment in the group health plan by paying up to 102 percent of the full cost of that coverage (the “COBRA premium”) and fulfilling certain other conditions set forth in COBRA.  Under ARRA’s COBRA Premium Subsidy Rules, Congress among other things amended COBRA through December 31, 2009 to require that employers “subsidize” 65% of the otherwise applicable COBRA premium for employees or dependents electing COBRA coverage following a loss of eligibility due to the involuntary employment termination between September 15, 2008 and December 31, 2009 who otherwise qualify as “assistance eligible individuals” under ARRA.  The COBRA Premium Subsidy rules created a mechanism through which employers providing the required COBRA Premium Subsidy can claim a payroll tax credit for COBRA Premium Subsidy amounts paid with respect to assistance eligible individuals in accordance with ARRA’s mandates.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Robert P. Casey (D-PA) now are proposing that Congress extend and expand ARRA COBRA Premium Subsidy requirements applicable to group health plans as proposed by the “COBRA Subsidy Extension and Enhancement Act” (S. 2730).  The “COBRA Subsidy Extension and Enhancement Act” (S. 2730) proposes that Congress:

  • Extend the COBRA Premium Subsidy requirements an extra six months to 15 months;
  • Increase the required subsidy amount during the extended COBRA Premium Subsidy period from 65 percent to 75 percent of the COBRA premium; and
  • Clarify that the employees and dependents eligible to qualify as assistance eligible individuals under ARRA includes those losing group health plan eligibility due to an employment loss, whether from an actual employment termination or a decline in hours of employment.

If you have questions regarding ARRA, Cobra, or the possible extension and expansion of ARRA, do not hesitate to contact me at joel@jmfpc.com or visit my contact page.