COBRA Premium Reduction and Extended Eligibility Provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009


The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) today (May 1, 2009) continued its efforts to increase awareness of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”) by sharing information with state agencies and asking their assistance in helping dislocated workers, businesses, and partners in understanding the new law.

Under ARRA, employees involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 and their dependents may be able to qualify for a 65% discount in the required premium they must pay to maintain COBRA coverage under their former employer’s group health plan for up to 9 months.  Special rules also apply to former employees who qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance or affected by certain Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation insurance programs.

Employers must pay the remaining amount of the otherwise required COBRA premium, but can request reimbursement from the Internal Revenue Service by filing for a payroll tax credit under the provisions of ARRA. 

Group health plans were required to begin complying with the new ARRA rules beginning February 17, 2009 and to notify workers of the new rules no later than April 18, 2009.  Many employers and their group health plan sponsors are still working to complete the necessary arrangements to comply with these new requirements.

The communication of information about the new provisions by the DOL, group health plans, employers and the media have prompted an outpouring of questions from many employees and their dependents, confused about their eligibility for the ARRA COBRA Subsidy and its workings.

In Training And Employment Notice No. 42-08, which is addressed to state workforce agencies, labor commissioners and other state workforce regulators, the Employment and Training Administration (“ETA”):

  •  Shared certain basic information about ARRA’s COBRA, Trade Adjustment Assistance and other workforce assistance relief;
  • Detailed some of the training and other resources provided by the DOL to help States and their citizens understand these new provisions and the procedures for their use; and
  • Asked the regulators to assist in communicating and disseminating the information to individuals who might qualify for benefits and other interested parties.

Interested persons can review the announcement at http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEN/ten2008/TEN42-08acc.pdf.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is nationally known for her knowledge and experience on COBRA and other health benefit and employee benefit matters,.  You will find several of these previous publications on the new ARRA COBRA provisions on prior editions of the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update.  You also can access some of the many practical updates that she has prepared on these and other COBRA matters by e-mailing or contacting her.  She and other members of Curren Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its COBRA or other employee benefit or human resources practices, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402 or your favorite Curren Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney. 

For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curren Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the http://www.cttlegal.com.

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