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Susan M. Heathfield

What's Up With the COBRA Subsidy?

By November 18, 2009

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According to Wendy Nice Barnes, vice president of Human Resources at eHealth, the COBRA Subsidy is running out for employees who started to receive it in March, 2009.

Wendy, who earlier wrote about the COBRA subsidy and alternative health care options for employees, says: "There are two pieces of legislation making their way through the Congress - one in the House and one in the Senate - that would extend the COBRA subsidy. The Senate bill is: S. 2730 and the House bill is HR. 3930."

It seems likely that the Congress will extend the subsidy. For those of you who follow these:

  • COBRA Subsidy Extension in the Senate. Senate Bill: S. 2730, The COBRA Subsidy Extension and Enhancement Act of 2009, was introduced on November 4, 2009. Its Sponsors were: Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA). Latest Action was November 4th: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

    Major Provisions are: The current subsidies are extended for an additional 6 months and a new 75% COBRA subsidy for newly unemployed begins in 1/01/2010 through 06/2010. The COBRA subsidy is extended from 9 months to 15 months and a reduction in hours from full-time to part-time becomes a COBRA-qualifying event.

  • COBRA Subsidy Extension in the House. HR. 3930, the Extended COBRA Continuation Protection Act of 2009, was introduced on October 28, 2009 by Sponsor: Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA). In the latest action taken in Congress on October 26th, the Act was referred to House Education and Labor committee.

    Major Provisions are: COBRA is extended from 18 months to 24 months. Current subsidies receive a 6 month extension and a 65% COBRA subsidy is extended through 1/06/2010.

Image Copyright Wendy Nice Barnes

November 24, 2009 at 10:07 am
(1) John says:

Why are these Senate Bill S.2730 and the House bill HR 3930 just “sitting there”,(one referred to the committee on Health, Education,Labor and pensions on NOV 4 !and the other, the latest action taken in Congress on October 26th!!!,when the Act was referred to House Education and Labor committee).?

With a deadline of Nov 30, when thousands of families will have to choose between paying 3 to 4 time MORE for Dec and on – which obviously unemployed workers can’t afford or choose to go without any health insurance…

I can’t get ANY info from my MD Senators or House representatives on what is being done (or not) to pass a bill BEFORE Nov 30.
Remember once you decide you can’t afford the Cobra after Nov 30, and you stop Cobra, it’s very good possible most will not be allowed back into Cobra with the Subsidy extension (if a bill passes a few days later).

Come on Senators,House representatives…Committees, don’t leave so many families (and Business)in the dark. The only thing that keeps many unemployed from going “under” was and IS this Cobra subsidy assistance…

You really want to see a total collapse of our system, economy… take away (or “sit on” a Bill)the only thing that keep families from drowning, while searching for a job.

Anyone has any suggestions (besides leaving more messages with our Senate and House representatives and don’t get any return call or e-mail)?


November 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm
(2) Gray says:

Assuming no action will be taken to extend the subsidy this year, I could use some advice on action to take after our family’s subsidy runs out on 12/31/09. Would shifting to a health savings account in January undermine my ability to go back to subsidized COBRA should it reemerge in the new year? I hate to start paying $1200 a month to continue, but would consider it if I felt hopeful an extension was actually coming.

November 24, 2009 at 4:24 pm
(3) Stressed says:

If you can come up with a way to pay December’s bill by the end of that month, you will be ok as long as they pass this bill. They have to give you 30 days to pay so that gives you to the end of December. Then the subsidy would be retroactive to December 1, and your overpayment would be credited toward future months, givng you a break from any payments for a couple of months. They did this in February when they first passed this and benefits companies couldn’t get their acts together quickly enough. In the meantime, contact your representatives about this especially if you live in the same state as one of the sponsors.

November 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm
(4) Tony says:

I really hope this pass’s. Right now I have been out of work for 10 months with no offers or call backs and 400 applications! My wife who was working PT quit her job and took a job that pays less then her PT job but it has FT hours and medical but we still need to wait the 90 day probationary period, and we just cant afford 950$ per month for Cobra not with her new job only paying $9.50 per hour and my $300 in unemployment! I really feel left out by the government, they passed a bill in just days for AIG! I have been living off my savings and 401k and dont qualify for Medicade because I had too much $ in my 401k set aside for taxes. Its a joke, dont touch your 401k and only tap it to pay tax and rent when needed and you dont qualify for any social programs, drain your 401k and be unresponsible and buy a house with an Arm loan you cant afford the goverment is there to help. WTF! All I know is once I get back to work I am never buying stocks or bonds or 401k, I am gonna keep my $ hidden away in small investments like gold and silver. Being responsible and saving has done nothing but hurt me during this unexpected layoff and I have gotten nothing from the gov, the one time I need it in my life time!

November 25, 2009 at 3:24 am
(5) Casiel says:

I have read all the comments and my concerns are exactly the same. I can’t afford to pay $1,000.00 a month for insurance. The Coba Subsidy has been a God Send. Oops! can I use the word God? Or is it just forbidden in the schools ? Anyway I agree October 26th has been a tad bit to long.
Hopfully something is done shortly so I can at least breath a little easier and not be so darn stressed out all the time.

November 30, 2009 at 11:19 pm
(6) Brian says:

I live in Ohio and plan on contacting Senator Brown’s office. It cant’ hurt! I too could really use the subsidy and both my wife and I lost our jobs in 2009.

By the way, no, you cannot use the word “God” in the schools. 3 words for you – Separation. Church. State. Yeah, yeah, the Pledge. I haven’t forgotten that we added the words “Under God” during the 50′s due to our fear of the godless red horde.

December 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm
(7) Steve says:

Hey Brian
I can say whatever I want in schools or wherever.
Our constitution has God in it as our nation was founded by God fearing Christians that had compassion even for people like you. You can never change that – ever. Separation of church and state has to do with abuse of the churches power. So we keep the man made institution away from government. No one wants things like the inquisition to come back. This was a pure abuse of power by the church. The church being referred to is a man made institution because it is imperfect. God is NOT the church. He is perfect. God exists and there is no question about that. You just have not figured that out yet. i.e., the big bang theory – something from nothing…
Nevertheless, It is still a democracy and there will always be more people who believe in God than do not. I don’t want to change your beliefs but please don’t try to infringe upon mine. IN GOD WE TRUST!

December 2, 2009 at 12:27 am
(8) Mike says:

If we can find money to bail out businesses or to give it to other countries, then I don’t see why we can’t take care of our own people and extend the COBRA subsidy a few more months. I don’t think it’s asking too much – or are we just pitifully backwards.

December 5, 2009 at 11:47 am
(9) Dan says:

I’m hoping for the continuation of the subsidized COBRA coverage. My failing health affected my ability as an RN and nursing supervisor to continue in my former job of almost 16 years. I was terminated for the first time in my life and as of July/09 joined the ranks of the unemployed qand started my COBRA insurance coverage. By Sept./09 my condition was worse and after a fall when leaving a hospital where my wife was a patient I fractured my hand and a rib. That was the end of my unemployment which I received for only about 6 weeks. My wife is disabled and receives a monthly social security check and is on medicare. With such a limited income the subsidy for my COBRA coverage is essnetial. I must have medical coverage due to the fact that I have been diagnosed with liver disease and now have only 30% function of my liver. I have emailed Sen. Casey of PA a co-sponsor of a newly proposed Cobra subsidy bill currently being looked at in the US Senate. Keeping the cost of my medical coverage affordable is essential and with a lot of prayers from myself,family and friends this subsidy hopefully will pass. Sorry for the wordiness but I hope my point has been made.


December 7, 2009 at 11:45 am
(10) Susan says:

I am beyond frustrated. I can get no answers, and my COBRA subsidy expires at the end of Dec. My senators office will not even respond. I WAS TOLD CONGRESS BILL DID NOT PASS by my former employer.
How can we be paying billions of TARP money and Wall Street bonuses, but not helping the 15M out of work with an extra 6 mos. subsidy? Mind boggling.

December 7, 2009 at 11:58 am
(11) Rick says:

I was laid off for the first time in my life a year ago – cannot find full time work with benefits to replace my former job. COBRA subsidy has just run out and I need to pay over $1600/mo to keep my family covered under COBRA. I do wish Congress would take a few minutes off from bailing out banks and arranging for insurance companies to experience windfalls at our expense to help with our unbelievable insurance bills while we try to recover from this new Great Depression.

December 7, 2009 at 12:24 pm
(12) Jordan says:

This is worse than I thought there are so many more people out there in the situation that I am.Being Unemployed and having a sick wife the cobra subsidy would of made it possible for me to add her on during open enrollment and we could of afforded it, but no they want the full premium up front to have her insurance start on 01/01/10, so if the bill does pass it is too late to add her now.

TOO LITTLE TO LATE, so thank you to our Government for missing the deadline and those who need continued coverage and for those who needed to be added during the tiny little window of open enrollment are screwed.

December 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm
(13) Rick says:

Jordan, I qualified for COBRA and the ARRA subsidy starting in March this year, but had to pay full price (yikes!) until the subsidy kicked in. We were reimbursed, though, so it might be worth it (if you can do it for a month or two) to sign up for the COBRA and hope that something in the way of a subsidy does pass soon. If somethign like H.R.3090 does pass it will be retroactive.

December 8, 2009 at 8:09 pm
(14) Judi B says:

December 08, 2009
Could our politicians speed this up or could our news,TV, on daily basis start talking about bills HR-3930 or S-2730 so they may listen to what stress we have worring if or rather they are going to extend stimulus for cobra for additional (6) months as was presented Nov 04, 2009. Seems these bills are stalled, Why? Looks like only (18) Senators have supported these bills, but seems “We The People” cannot get any infomation or see it talked about, only health reform is mention. Are the politicians waiting to see this past before each of us who is drowing get help! So maybe one or some politician will finally read our cry’s for help and start working on these two bills, before the time line for these bills expire by December 31, 2009 ends. When that happens alot of people will loose their cobra coverage and will not qualify for assistants if loose coverage. If we do not get any help the recession will only get worst due alot, almost 500,000 of people, still out of work will have corba amounts raised some only have $1500.00, or less,a month coming in and corba for a family is $1498.00, leaves this family with $2.00 to live. This will cause another hugh down fall to our country for more house loans will fail, if no insurance more md’s, hospital’s, medical care not pd for , car insurance not pd, and alot will start bankrupting and etc. and then this will really pull the ecomony down. So please find out why this is not talked about, why politicians not working on this, and why we cannot get information, updates daily on news so many of We the People not stress and worry during this christmas season, and it’s not about buying christmas, it is about being able to live! Most everyone has worked all their life, never asked of anything and now when the ecomony is awful, no fault of one. All of almost 500,000 still out of work and cobra extension expires this month (12/31/2009) and we will not be able to live, no money to pd home, heat, food, medical care, gas on and on and on. Shame on the politicians who is allowing this to happen to the “We The People” of USA playing with our lives to see which party will win, or scare of not getting elected. I think like the president terms, house-congress, senators should only be able to serve (2) times, after that health insurance, etc should have to be private and no pension except to cover the term serve, and then live like the real people in the USA and then they may view alot of things different Thank you for reading my view and hope you will keep a follow up daily on this subject so something can get done. Please be the voice of “We The People”!

December 9, 2009 at 1:06 pm
(15) Donna says:

I lost my job in January, but have been working for a temporary agency for the past month. The temporary agency offers a post-tax limited health care plan to its workers. Under ARRA’s guidelines, if you can get insurance elsewhere then you are not eligible for the COBRA subsidy. The plan available to me is not a major medical insurance policy. If I need surgery or hospitalization, the plan pays a flat $1,000. Am I eligible to stay on COBRA and receive the subsidy?

December 10, 2009 at 7:47 pm
(16) Joe Richards says:

The only benefit that a common joe got out of the stimulus funds was the COBRA subsidy for the unfortunate millions that lost their job for no fault of theirs. I admire the Obama admin for this random act of kindness to the hard working American. The fact of the matter is the unemployment %age has only gone up since this rebate was offered. Jobs are still hard to get and the govt needs to think of continuing this rebate for an extended period say until the economy gets back to say 7% unemployment or some thing that meaningfully measures the employment situation. The stimulus money has been spent on saving the jobs of the very criminals that failed the financial system which caused the jobs of people like me and others. It is about time that the common citizen’s interest and welfare gets the attention first.

December 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm
(17) Teri says:

House passes COBRA subsidy extension bill


December 20, 2009 at 4:41 am
(18) Linda says:

Thank you Teri for the information. Much appreciated!!

December 20, 2009 at 4:49 am
(19) Linda says:

thanks Teri for info!!

December 20, 2009 at 11:25 am
(20) if I were involuntarily terminated in December of 2009, but do not become eligible for COBRA until after December 31, 2009, will I be eligible for the COBRA subsidy now after new extension law? 1 says:

if I were involuntarily terminated in December of 2009, but do not become eligible for COBRA until after December 31, 2009, will I be eligible for the COBRA subsidy now after new extension law?

January 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm
(21) Leroy says:

My daughter whose position had been terminated in early 2009 had a six month payout that included insurance; she has recently been notified by her former employer that she “used” six months of her subsidy even though her responsibility for COBRA didn’t start until after the six month period; have any of you had the same experience; I am continuing to research the original COBRA intent to determine if that is proper; obviously she can use the additional extension beyond the 9 months, but it does not hurt to be prepared in case unemployment remains difficult for another year or so

January 19, 2010 at 11:53 pm
(22) Leslie Morgan says:

None of this makes any difference for those of us who were laid off before the plan discount rate. We have been out of work LONGER and paid MORE in premiums. How about a retroactive subsidy AND and extension going for people who were laid off in 2008.

How many people are actually being helped vs how many need help? I’m sure it’s great PR to say Congress “subsidized” Cobra for laid-off workers but doing it for a fraction of them doesn’t hit the news.

BTW, aren’t employers paying for this? If so, isn’t that less money to hire/pay people to work AND another potential liability if the hire and have to lay off?

January 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm
(23) Andy says:

Even though these subsidies have been extended, there is little long term help unless the employment situation in this country improves. With 10%+ unemployment, more and more Americans will lose their health insurance.

January 27, 2010 at 6:55 pm
(24) Larry says:

Although President Obama did sign the subsidy extension into law last year, there is still one component of the legislation I have been unable to track. This involves extension of eligibility for traditional COBRA coverage (i.e. not “premium assisted”) an additional 6 months, from 18 to 24 months. I believe this was also a part of the original bill, but I have not been able to find out if this part has also been signed into law.

Does anyone know the status of that part of the original House and Senate bills?

February 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm
(25) Chris A. says:

I’d like to see an extension beyond 2/2010 with perhaps a schdule for reducing the benift. Right now I have 2 employees scheduled for lay-off 2 months apart, one will pay $350 for Cobra the other $1000. Not a good postion for employers to try and explian. The need for layoff is tough enough be employees can at lease see that they have no work to do.

July 5, 2010 at 11:41 pm
(26) TOM says:


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