Maintaining Eligibility for the COBRA Subsidy
I recently received a question from a reader that may be of interest to others. Following is a portion of the question and my response:
I read your article on COBRA it was very informative, Could you please tell me where I can get an answer to this question. I was laid off from my job in February. I am getting COBRA under the ARRA where my former employer pays 65% of my health benefits. I also am collecting unemployment.
My former company wants me to work a few weekend for them, will I loose my COBRA benefits if I do this.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) premium assistance subsidy ends not when you become employed but only when you become eligible for Medicare or another group health plan (such as a plan sponsored by a new employer or a spouse’s employer). In fact the law imposes a duty on the recipient to notify the plan if they become eligible for coverage under another group health plan or Medicare, and failure to do so can result in a tax penalty. The subsidy will also end 9 months after the first day of the first month to which the subsidy applies or when COBRA benefits are no longer available to you.
Generally, COBRA coverage is available for 18 months after termination of employment and may end earlier if:
- Premiums are not paid on a timely basis
- The employer ceases to maintain any group health plan
- After the COBRA election, coverage is obtained with another employer group health plan that does not contain any exclusion or limitation with respect to any pre-existing condition of such beneficiary. However, if other group health coverage is obtained prior to the COBRA election, COBRA coverage may not be discontinued, even if the other coverage continues after the COBRA election.
- After the COBRA election, a beneficiary becomes entitled to Medicare benefits. However, if Medicare is obtained prior to COBRA election, COBRA coverage may not be discontinued, even if the other coverage continues after the COBRA election.
The COBRA statute provides that eligibility for coverage ends on the date that the individual first becomes covered under any other group health plan (as an employee or otherwise) which does not contain any exclusion or limitation with respect to any preexisting condition of such beneficiary. However, this year’s ARRA provides that eligibility for subsidy ends the first date that the individual is eligible for coverage under any other group plan, coverage under a flexible spending arrangement or coverage of treatment furnished by the employer, without mention of any exclusion or limitation with respect to any pre-existing condition.
I hope this answers your question, which we thought was an interesting one.