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2021 COBRA Premium Subsidies

The latest round of COVID relief legislation that was signed into law in March (the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) included a provision to provide COBRA premium subsidies to help laid off employees and their beneficiaries retain health insurance coverage.   COBRA provides certain employees and their beneficiaries with the right to retain coverage under an employer’s group health plan for a set period of time following certain triggering events including when the employee is laid off.  Typically the cost of the COBRA premiums are born exclusively by the individual.  However, the new law provides subsidies to cover 100% of the premiums for eligible individuals who qualify for COBRA coverage for the period from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021.  During this period, the qualifying individual does not have to remit COBRA premiums and instead the premium will be reimbursed directly to the employer, plan administrator or insurance company (depending on the nature of the plan) in the form of a tax credit.  Late last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued two new sets of FAQs to help employees and employers understand the new COBRA premium subsidies and COBRA in general.  The DOL also issued new model notices that employers and plan administrators may use to satisfy their obligation to alert COBRA qualifying individuals of the COBRA premium subsidies.  In the event of a termination/lay off or other action (such as a reduction in hours) that would end an employee’s regular coverage under the group health plan and cause them to be eligible for COBRA.