As part of the economic stimulus plan President Obama signed into law in February, employees who were involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008, and December 31, 2009, are eligible to retain their group health coverage for a period of up to nine months by paying a portion of the COBRA premium.
Involuntarily terminated employees must pay 35 percent of the COBRA premium and employers must front the money for the remaining 65 percent. Employers will pay the insurer directly, then claim it as an offset against payroll tax liabilities. Payroll will then report any subsidies and take the offset on an updated Form 941.
"Our action today gives workers and their families useful information on their right to receive the COBRA subsidy and makes it easier for employers and plans to meet their notice obligations. Given the current economic situation facing dislocated workers and their families, it is very important that individuals do not lose their group health coverage," said Alan D. Lebowitz, deputy assistant secretary of labor for the department's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).
Employers can send the DOL’s model notices to COBRA beneficiaries advising them of the subsidy and how they can enroll for coverage.
Designed to fit different situations, the four COBRA model notices include:
- A general or “full” notice to be given to beneficiaries who lost group coverage between September 1, 2008, and December 31, 2009.
- An abbreviated general notice that would be for beneficiaries who are currently receiving unsubsidized COBRA.
- An alternative notice explains the right of individuals working in states with continuation coverage laws, or “mini-COBRA” laws, which apply to employers with fewer than 20 employees.
- A notice of extended election periods for eligible individuals who lost their jobs before the stimulus plan was signed into law, between September 1, 2008 and February 16, 2009, and declined or discontinued COBRA coverage at the time.
Each package includes information of the premium reduction provisions, a series of questions and answers, and which forms to use in requesting the premium reduction or COBRA coverage.
More information on the COBRA subsidy:
- Stimulus plan subsidizes COBRA, expands unemployment insurance
- IRS releases info to help employers claim COBRA credit