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COBRA Subsidy Extension Update

April 12th, 2010 – COBRA is a Federal Act that allows most employees of firms with 20 or more employees that were covered by an Employer Sponsored Health Insurance plan to continue those benefits, generally for up to 18 months after a separation of employment.

In Colorado, we also have State Continuation Benefits which offer nearly identical benefits (to COBRA) to Colorado companies with fewer than 20 employees.

Generally, you become eligible for COBRA Benefits or Colorado’s Continuation Benefits if you had voluntary or involuntary termination of employment or if your hours were cut to where you were no longer eligible for the employer sponsored group health insurance plan.  There are other special situations, but these are the most common.

If you had an involuntary termination of employment between September 1st 2008 and March 31st, 2010 you may be eligible for a 65% premium subsidy for up to 15 months as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.   That means that you would just pay 35% of the normal COBRA or Colorado State Continuation premium if you had an involuntary job loss (i.e. getting laid off or fired for reasons other than gross negligence) during that time frame.

The premium subsidy will last up to 15 months or until you are eligible for health benefits through another employer sponsored group plan, including a spouse’s plan.   Please note that if the company closes or discontinues offering health insurance to employees then COBRA, State Continuation and any subsidies may not apply.

If the your modified adjusted gross income is more than $125,000 a year or $250,000 a year, if filing jointly then you may not be eligible for the full subsidy. If your modified adjusted gross income is more than $155,000 a year or $290,000 a year, if filing jointly then you may not be eligible for any subsidy. The subsidy is not considered income as long as the beneficiary meets the income tests.

The United States Department of Labor has a helpful FAQ Page to answer the most common questions about COBRA and the COBRA Premium Subsidies.  If you wish to speak to them about your individual situation you can call the Department of Labor at 1.866.444.3272.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Mark June 1, 2010, 8:41 am

    The eligibility period for the COBRA subsidy program has been extended to May 31, 2010. Individuals who are involuntarily terminated from employment through May 31, 2010, are eligible for the subsidy available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

  • Jennifer June 27, 2011, 5:07 am

    I was eligible for the subsidy but closed my claim and worked for about 7 months for 2 different employers. Even though I had a little money left on my old claim (the one that was eligible for EU and Cobra Subsidy) had a balance, I was required to open a new claim. Now I am forced to (and have) applied for UE again. My question is whether or not I am eligible for subsidized Cobra.

    I have applied for multiple independent companies’ plans but I am on too many medications to even qualify for their most expensive plans. I need my medications, I need my healthcare but am paying my rent and living of the very little credit I have remaining.

    I need help. Please advise.
    Kind Regards,

    • Mark Erickson June 27, 2011, 9:39 am

      Hi Jen,
      Thank you for your comment. That’s a very difficult situation. I really don’t have the authority to tell if you are or are not still elgible for the Cobra Subsidy. You should go to http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/cobra.html and read that information on the subject. You may also want to call the Department of Labor at 1.866.444.EBSA (3272) to get more specific guidance.
      If you have been declined health insurance and are a Colorado Resident that is unable to get regular Individual Health Insurance. There are a couple of programs you may qualify for. If you’ve been uninsured for at least 6 months you’ll want to check out: https://www.gettinguscovered.org/. Otherwise, if you don’t have access to an employer sponsored group health insurance plan, your best bet is likely going to be CoverColorado, which you can read about at https://www.covercolorado.org/. You should qualify for that and CoverColorado has substancial premium discounts available based upon your household income. I also suggest you check out or Public and Private Assistance Programs to see if there is anything else you may qualify for.
      Take care and best of luck Jen!!

    • Mark Erickson August 1, 2011, 3:01 pm

      Hi Jen,
      It sounds like you’ll need to apply for CoverColorado, if you’re unable to medically qualify for an individual plan. They do have some nice premium discounts available and you can see their plans and rates online at http://www.covercolorado.org.

      • Jen September 25, 2011, 5:51 pm

        Thanks for the information Mark! I just saw your last post and here is an update. I applied for federal assistance but making $475 weekly disqualifies you from ANY assistance. the only option for me was the Denver Health (I *think that is the same as CoverColorado but I will check) discount plan but they require me to use any cobra before I use their discounts. Catch 22. I am about to lose the roof over my head, going to food banks and am a month behind on cobra. Today, I seem to have lost my unemployment so have to stand in line at 6:30 am tomorrow to find out what is going on with that. Any resources you can suggest are welcomed!

        • Mark Erickson September 26, 2011, 10:17 am

          Hi Jen,
          CoverColorado is not the same as the DenverHealth program. They have some nice premium discounts available and you can see their plans and rates online at http://www.covercolorado.org.
          Clearly, you’re going through a very difficult time, but stay in faith and try to maintain a positive expectancy!

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