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Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
COBRA Benefits Extended Yet Again

Most savvy employers and human resources professionals already know this, but President Obama recently signed into law the Continuing Extension Act of 2010, which extends the COBRA ARRA subsidy for involuntary terminations that occur up to May 31, 2010.  I wrote about the previous extension here.

The US Department of Labor also issued revised model COBRA notices to be used for employees terminated up until May 31, 2010.  The new model notices can be found here.

COBRA and Unemployment Benefits Extended Again

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Temporary Extension Act of 2010, a bill that extends (a) the 65% COBRA premium subsidy through March 31, 2010, and (b) unemployment assistance benefits through April 5, 2010.  Both benefits had expired on February 28, 2010.

The Senate may also be considering longer COBRA and unemployment benefits extensions.  One such bill, introduced by Senator Max Baucus from Montana, would extend both benefits through December 31, 2010.

DOL Issues Revised COBRA Notices

On January 13, 2010, the United States Department of Labor issued an updated general notice regarding employers’ obligations under the COBRA ARRA amendments in light of the 2010 DOD Act (as discussed here.)  This revised COBRA notice must be provided to all covered employees and qualified beneficiaries experiencing any kind of qualfying event (i.e. termination of employment, loss of hours, etc.) on or after December 19, 2009 until February 28, 2010.

The DOL’s updated general notice can be found here.

The DOL’s revised fact sheet on the new COBRA premium extension can be found here.

COBRA ARRA Extended For 2 Months; Other Changes

The 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act has extended the 65% assistance payment under the COBRA American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for an additional two months.  The ARRA was originally scheduled to end on December 31, 2009, but will now expire on February 28, 2010.

In addition, the new Act also lengthened the maximum duration of the assistance payment from 9 months to 15 months and clarified that individuals who lose coverage due to an involuntary termination of employment on or before February 28, 2010 are eligible to receive the assistance payment, even if their COBRA coverage begins after February 28, 2010.

Finally, the Act also provided for new notification requirements.  The Act did not increase the amount of the assistance payment, nor did it expand the qualifying events that make individuals eligible for the assistance payment.

For your reference, the US Department of Labor has issued a fact sheet explaining the current state of COBRA laws.

COBRA – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides for premium reductions and additional election opportunities for health benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, commonly called COBRA. Eligible individuals pay only 35 percent of their COBRA premiums and the remaining 65 percent is reimbursed to the coverage provider through a tax credit.

The premium reduction applies to periods of health coverage beginning on or after February 17, 2009 and lasts for up to nine months for those eligible for COBRA during the period beginning September 1, 2008 and ending December 31, 2009 due to an involuntary termination of employment that occurred during that period.

You can find model notices for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 here: ARRA Notices on DOL Website.