Section 9501 of the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) fully funds COBRA health insurance plan payments for qualifying individuals between the dates of April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021. This benefit is funded by the employers who will then receive a tax credit to offset the cost of COBRA coverage. Notably, the benefit is not available to employees who voluntarily quit their job or who were terminated on the basis of “gross misconduct,” and the 18- and 36-month limit to coverage still apply.
Before the world of COVID-19, nearly all employees who separated from their jobs had the option of electing to remain on their employee-sponsored health insurance by enrolling in a COBRA plan. I say “nearly all employee” because COBRA is only available to employee who worked for a company that employs 20 or more employees. However, Texas has passed its own version of COBRA known as “mini-COBRA,” which applies to businesses with fewer than 20 employees and only provides 9 months of coverage.
Generally, employees are permitted to enroll in COBRA within 60 days from their employment separation. Once an employee enrolls in COBRA, the employee is usually permitted to remain on COBRA for 18 months, unless (1) the employee is only eligible for mini-COBRA, which would only permit the employee to remain on COBRA for 9 months or (2) the employee becomes eligible for Medicare while on COBRA, in which case the employee will transition from COBRA to Medicare while his or her family members are permitted to remain covered by COBRA for 36 months rather than just 18 months.