if you lost your job recently, you’re eligible for 6 months of free health insurance

If you lost your job in the last 18 months, you can now remain on your employer-sponsored health insurance for free through September 30, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law last month.

Some background:

Typically when you lose your job, you’re eligible to continue on your employer’s health care plan through a federal law called COBRA, as long as your employer had at least 20 full- or part-time employees during the previous year. That coverage lasts for up to 18 months (but can be extended to 29 months for people with disabilities). But it’s often unaffordable for many unemployed people, because you have to pay the full cost of the monthly insurance premiums yourself. That can be a ton of money; it averages around $600/month and is even higher for many people.

This new law allows you to use COBRA coverage at no cost to you. The federal government will pay for it.

More specifics:

* To be eligible, you must have involuntarily lost your job (been fired or laid off) for any reason other than “gross misconduct” or have lost your insurance due to a reduction in work hours.  You also must be within the 18-month COBRA eligibility period (meaning it’s been less than 18 months since you lost your job).

* If you are eligible for assistance but haven’t already elected COBRA coverage, or if you’d previously declined or discontinued it, you can sign up during a special enrollment period that begins today and ends 60 days after the date when your COBRA notification was delivered (something your previous employer should be sending to you). For example, if you were laid off in November and didn’t sign up for COBRA because it was too expensive, you can enroll now that it’s free to you — as long as you do it within 60 days of being notified of this new subsidy.

* If you sign up, the government will pay 100% of your premium costs between now and September 30. You will still be responsbible for any co-pays and deductibles.

* This applies to any family members who were on your plan as well.

* Usually with COBRA, if you don’t enroll right away and then decide to do later on, you have to go back and pay premiums for the months you missed because you’re not allowed to have a gap in coverage. This law temporarily suspends that rule; you will not have to pay the missing premiums (but you’ll also only be covered for insurance claims starting on the date of your enrollment).

* Your eligibility ends once you’re eligible for other group health plan coverage (such as when you get a new job) or when your maximum COBRA period expires.

* Employers will be responsible for continuing to pay your premiums, and then will be reimbursed by the government through a payroll tax credit.

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. Hil*

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! I cannot even tell you the weight this lifts.

    1. Specks*

      Right? Same here… that’s $650 a month that I’ve been shelling out for the past 9 months that I now don’t have to worry about once my temp job ends.

      1. Fake Eleanor*

        Same! Although I spoke with my insurance carrier yesterday and they don’t know how it works yet. I went ahead and paid for April with the assurance that, once they figure out how it’ll work, I would be refunded by… someone.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know! It’s odd that no one seems to be publicizing this. Maybe they figure you’ll find out when you get the eligibility notice from your old employer?

      1. ThatGirl*

        I got laid off last November, and as part of my severance my company was going to pay for COBRA for 3 months. I was debating whether to take it when I got a new job, so I got all of the paperwork but never did anything with it.

        I got something again more recently, glanced at it but since I don’t need it and never sent in the paperwork I was a little confused. It wasn’t until I saw something about this extension that it made sense. While I don’t need it, I definitely think it should be advertised like, everywhere! This is a big deal!

      2. Kimmybear*

        I’m jaded and think it’s because it would flag how messed up our healthcare system is that this is needed.

        1. Shirley You're Joking*

          I’m a benefits manager and I’m anxious to get this information out to our former employees who may be eligible, but the Dept of Labor has not yet released the required notices. They won’t be available until mid-April. Once the DOL has released those notices, all employers should be sending out the notices to former employees who were involuntarily terminated or had hours reduced that caused them to lost health coverage.

          By the way, the subsidy covers medical, dental, and vision insurance. Not just medical!

          1. B Wayne*

            I was laid off permanently in April, 2020 and COBRAed for a couple of months. I signed up for Medicare as I was of the age and am paying Part B monthly. Is this a “qualifying plan” that would exclude me from the extension? I ask as my dental now does not include my very long time dentist while the employer insurance did. I’d like the extension to at least go to my guy for a bit longer.

      3. RosyGlasses*

        I think much of it is that we as HR and employees are scrambling to figure out who is covered especially because many states have been enacting their own policies around extending EPFMLA and EPSL as well as this. Also the DOL has until April 5 to release a model letter because there are some extra penalties if people are found to have enrolled in this fraudulently. So like everything else in the past 12 months, we are watching webinars and talking to employment attorneys to interpret the law and get our systems to send out the right info. I anticipate much more vocalizing of this in the next few weeks.

  2. Jane*

    There’s a second route to free health insurance in the bill as well.

    If you collect any unemployment income in 2021 and not eligible for MediCaid, you’re eligible for the same ACA subsidy that someone at 138% of the federal poverty level would be, all year, regardless of your actual income.

    Which generally translates to free health insurance through the ACA exchange without a deductible at all.

    Because it’s a new thing, rollout may be of varying speeds in different states – but if you have collected unemployment it may be an even better deal(!) than the 6 months of free cobra insurance

    1. AudreyP*

      Careful with this one … I am on the phone with healthcare.gov right now 800-318-2596. It’s not really “free” insurance. It is a break on your premium if you qualify based on income. If, when you later file your taxes, your income ended up being higher than it was when you applied, you will need to pay back the subsidy in a percentage related to how much you earned above the amount you claimed when you applied. If you do not earn more, when you file your taxes it will appear as a credit for your tax bill. Go to the healthcare.gov website, choose “get coverage” then use the pull-down menu to choose your state. Some states have their own marketplace (like California and so you will be required to shop with them for MediCal). It’s not as easy as it seems. Welcome to government programs!

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Thanks so much! That confused me when I looked before. I was newly unemployed, the pandemic hadn’t happened yet, and I had no idea what my income would be so I didn’t risk it.

      2. Jane*

        No, it isn’t income based as long as you made more than 138% of the FPL, and collected unemployment. It may take them a little while to implement, and communicate better about, as it’s a new thing.

        1. Jane*

          For anyone who doesn’t collect unemployment, or who is poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, or is still income based – though the subsidies have been dramatically improved for the not-unemployed as well.

        2. Jane*

          And in the cases where there is a clawback – they made it zero for 2020, and it is capped at something like $1600/ year maximum.

          But that won’t apply to those of us who made 138%FPL and above and had unemployment income.

  3. knitcrazybooknut*

    So this will cover anyone who is terminated through September 30, is that correct?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It should cover anyone who is in the COBRA eligibility period (within 18 months of termination), but the subisdy for the cost ends on Sept. 30. So if you’re laid off on Sept. 29, 2021, it’s not likely to cover you. But if you were laid off on July 1, 2021, it would cover you through Sept. 30. At least that’s my understanding; there is a strange lack of info available.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        Thank you so much for clarifying. I’m likely to term someone soon, and this will be helpful for them. Appreciated!

      2. DJ Abbott*

        I searched and found a few articles that seem to be intended for health care administrators and lawyers. They have some information.

  4. Rara Avis*

    My husband would meet the requirements, but I put him on my insurance. I wonder if there’s any way to get that reimbursed.

      1. 3DogNight*

        What if you paid (or I paid my daughters) the Cobra premiums during this time, do you know if that is reimbursed? That stuffs expensive!

        1. Snailing*

          I work for an employee benefits broker – They are not backdating any premiums, just doing a subsidy for April-September of this year, from what our compliance team has said (but they also said they’re still waiting on a lot of specific guidance, so it’s a bit murky). And it’s only for COBRA due to involuntary coverage loss (reduction in hours, lay off, firing), not for voluntarily leaving a job.

        2. Anon for this*

          Insurance person here…

          The government provided coverage only starts on April 1st, 2021 and runs through September 30th, 2021. Any COBRA premiums paid prior to that are not eligible for the subsidy, so the premiums are not reimbursable.

          For the spouse who joined their partner’s plan, this could be considered a qualified life event under your employer’s plan, but there is no guidance as yet, so that may be ambiguous to employers. Also, you would need to check that the loss of subsidized COBRA qualifies as life event in case you want to add your spouse back on in October. It should as the cost to your family changes, but again each employer administers their own life events and there is always differences among employers.

          ARPA says that the individual cannot be eligible for other group coverage. The industry is taking that as eligible in your own right through the individual’s employment, eligibility for Medicare, but again there has been no guidance issued. Perhaps there is so much confusion out there, I would be hesitant to take my spouse off my plan until I could confirm they could join their former employer’s plan.

          1. Snailing*

            Agreed – our company’s compliance team is also interpreting “eligible for other group coverage” as being eligible through a new employer of your own vs your spouse’s, but we’re still waiting on so much information and guidance, keeping her husband on her’s is probably a safe bet.

          2. Specks*

            Anon for this — this is super helpful! I didn’t realize you could even add someone to your cobra coverage. I just got married in March and my husband is self-employed and insured through the ACA, whereas I have been laid off and elected to maintain Cobra coverage. Could I theoretically add my husband to my insurance now and would it also be covered under this subsidy?

            1. Anon for this*

              Honestly, I am not sure — I would need to check with Compliance to see if there are any special rules. Usually, COBRA only applies to people who were covered on the plan while the employee was actively working. However, the rules state that COBRA employees have to be treated in the same/equal manner as active employees. So, a marriage is a life event that would qualify an active employee to add them to coverage. It generally does not happen when people have to pay the full premium for coverage as marriage often means they can go onto their spouse’s coverage at a lower cost.

              Other insurance brokers, do you have thoughts?

              It is an interesting question that I am going to ask our compliance about!

            2. Pinto*

              I doubt loss f the COBRA subsidy would be considered a lifeevent. I would not play this game.

          3. EchoGirl*

            Yeah, the ACA is weird about people who are eligible for insurance through a spouse (seriously, don’t get me started…), so that’s something I’d advise trying to get a firm answer on before making any major moves.

    1. Yupyup*

      I’m in the same boat! But just excited to spin him off my insurance for 6 months and save that cash.

  5. katja*

    Thank you so much for outlining and clarifying this! I’m eligible but had just assumed that I couldn’t afford COBRA. Insurance is so complicated and scary!

    1. DJ Abbott*

      My position was eliminated in Dec. 2019 and my COBRA then was over $900/month for BCBS with a $3,000 deductible. You were probably right.
      COBRA is such a joke, I’ve never been able to afford it. It’s always more than my rent.

      1. Shirley You're Joking*

        COBRA is just the law that lets you stay on your group’s plan at your own cost. When people see the full cost as a former employee, that’s when people realize how much their employer was subsidizing. The joke isn’t really COBRA. It’s that our insurance is tied to our employment and the only way it’s affordable for most people is to have the employer subsidize it.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          The whole thing is about insurance company profits. :( For-profit insurance should be illegal…

  6. ABK*

    We are tiptoeing toward more comprehensive government sponsored healthcare! Government pays for Medicare, Medicaid, VA, Exchange subsidies, however public employees get their healthcare, and now COBRA. Bit by bit we’ll claw our way to single payer :)

    1. Generic Name*

      YES! Honestly, I think it’s the only way it will happen. Plus, COBRA is a pretty badass acronym, so maybe it will be an easier sell than “Medicare for all”. ;)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        When my nieces were little, they asked me how you fire someone and I taught them a speech that included the words “now let’s talk about COBRA” and they refused to believe it wasn’t a snake and for years they would run around shrieking “now let’s talk about COBRA!”

  7. Emily*

    Thanks for sharing! I had no idea that this was a thing.

    Someone I know was laid off from her job (which did provide health insurance), and recently started a new job (which doesn’t provide health insurance, but does offer a monthly monetary subsidy to help cover the cost of employees purchasing their own insurance). Do you or any of the commenters know if she would be able to take advantage of this?

    1. Jane*

      Did she file for and collect unemployment in between the two jobs? If so the ACA subsidy for the unemployed which is also in the bill may be a great solution for her.

    2. Snailing*

      If she has been offered a new plan, she may be, since the subsidy is no longer available once you’re eligible for a new group plan, which her new employer doesn’t have. But the guidance so far has been pretty sparse, so she could start with contacting her former employer and ask if they’ve had any contact with their legal team and/or benefits broker about it

      1. Snailing*

        Sorry, typos galore! I meant: if she has NOT been offered a new plan, just money to cover one, she may indeed be eligible for this COBRA subsidy.

  8. Rose*

    Thank you for posting about this! I heard about this a few weeks ago and had trouble finding specifics when my unemployed friends had questions or were skeptical.

    If you’ve already signed up for COBRA, is it just automatically free now or is there an additional action you need to take? Do you need to submit proof?

    Does this apply if you are a permanent resident vs a citizen? What if your company is not headquartered in the US?

    I’m also confused about what counts as gross misconduct – do you typically know that from your exit paperwork? A couple of my unemployed friends were fired vs laid off and I don’t want any details that aren’t my business – I just want to be able to say, here’s how you check if you’re eligible. (I also don’t want to rub salt in the wound by talking this up to folks who aren’t eligible, but I guess it just makes sense to give people the info and let them figure it out.)

    1. Generic Name*

      I think gross misconduct is stuff like “punched a coworker” or “stole company property” and not things like “showed up late” or “generally crap at their job”.

    2. Anon for this*

      There is an attestation that will be required to be completed stating that you are not eligible for other group insurance and there is a fine ($250) for anyone who lies about it.

      If your friends were offered COBRA at the time they were fired, then they were not likely fired for gross misconduct. I have only seen that applied for embezzling funds and the like.

    3. MsMaryMary*

      The law applies to any employer who is subject to COBRA (and potentially employers subject to state “mini-COBRA” laws – it’s still TBD) and any employee who was COBRA eligible when they terminated within the last 18 months. It doesn’t matter where the employer is headquartered or its ownership structure. Someone’s citizenship or lack thereof wouldn’t matter either, as long as they were legally employed.

    4. Anna*

      This is what I’m wondering. I have been on COBRA since losing my job, but as of today I’m still being asked to pay my premium.

      1. Just My 2 Cents*

        The reason why you are still asking to be paid is because although the law is effective April 1st, we don’t have the notices we are required to send to those affected, guidance on a number of outstanding questions, etc. If you truly qualify, you will be reimbursed for your April premiums after this gets straightened out. Believe me, benefits professionals are almost as anxious as COBRA enrollees to figure this out.

    1. Snailing*

      Sadly, I don’t think it applies to employers under 20 people that comply with state mini-COBRA programs, just federal. Or at least I don’t think they’ve clarified that point.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        Some experts think the law does apply to state “mini-COBRA” programs. That’s one of the things people are waiting on the DOL to clarify. Stay tuned!

      2. I'll stay*

        It does apply to state mini cobra programs! That fact is buried in one of the definitions in the statute.

  9. Snailing*

    The bill also allows an opening for people who were offered COBRA but didn’t elect it because of the cost, as long as they are still in their coverage period and were offered COBRA for a qualified reason, which Alison covered above.

    So let’s say you lost your coverage because you were laid off April 15 2020 but you didn’t elect COBRA because you couldn’t afford it. They’ve opened a special enrollment period so you can elect it now and get the subsidy starting April through the end of your eligibility period or end of Sept, whichever is sooner.

    1. Hazel*

      I’ve been paying for my health insurance through COBRA since last April @ $750+ per month. I was hired at my new job in February, and I’m so glad I now have employer supplemented health insurance. It’s too bad, though, that the bill doesn’t allow for reimbursement of previously paid for health insurance. That would be really helpful now!

  10. KuklaRed*

    I’m happy for people who get this, but it’s too late for me. I lost my job almost a year ago today and I paid for 8 months of ACA insurance at $729 a month. Would have been nice to get that paid, but O well.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’re still unemployed, it’s not too late for you. You can elect COBRA now (assuming your workplace is eligible for it) and get your premiums covered April through September of this year. See the second bullet point in the post.

  11. My Name Is*

    This is great for those that have employer-insurance. There are so many people who have no health insurance because the exchanges do not have affordable health care. I am one of those individuals. I make too much money for a subsidy but I can’t afford the $845.00 a month premium with the $7,000 deductible and that’s the lowest plan available. The Affordable Health Care Act was a failure from Day 1. I hope those that have employer-provided health insurance really do appreciate that benefit from their companies. There is more to your paycheck than just the net income.

    1. Phantasia*

      As I understand it, the recent stimulus bill does include help for those with ACA exchange plans. If I remember correctly, the costs will be capped at 8.5% of AGI, for both 2021 and 2022. I don’t use an ACA plan so I didn’t look into this in detail — has anyone else investigated this?

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I saw those same numbers in an article I posted above.
        I understood it to say this has already been happening. I wish I’d known – I looked into ACA last year and there was nothing under $600/month. I’ve been paying ~$200/month on short-term plans with a $12,000 deductible and very mixed coverage. I owe my medical center $800 for routine medical appointments. :(

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      The Affordable Health Care Act was a failure from Day 1.

      Do you even know what the act covers?

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For many years, the only way I had health insurance was through the ACA … so no? But the law has been weakened greatly by members of Congress who specifically want to see it fail.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Good point, about members of congress deliberately trying to weaken it.

        A few years ago, when the GOP-controlled Congress was trying like hell to do away with the ACA, I took part in some rallies where lots of regular folks gave speeches about how much the ACA meant to them and how they desperately wanted to hang on to their coverage, so I know for a fact that it has not been a complete failure.

        I think it may make a difference what state one is in. I know it has helped a lot of people in my state (IL).

    4. TiffIf*

      The Affordable Health Care Act did a lot more than set up the exchanges, which I agree has been fairly disastrous overall and of limited benefit to many people, but to say the entire ACA has been a failure from day one seems to ignore all the other things that were in it–like the mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance, banning insurance carriers from dropping policy holders who suddenly became expensive, banning lifetime and annual coverage caps etc.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        This, exactly. Anyone who has had free preventive care lately, or purchased birth control prescriptions without a copay, or hasn’t had coverage denied because of a pre-existing condition, or has (or is) a young adult covered by a parents’ health insurance, should thank the ACA. Yes, it needs to be better. But it has done *so much.*

      2. SnappinTerrapin*

        Over the years, I encountered several problems with the ACA. Even so, I was better off with it than without it.

        I’m not sure what the solution will look like, but I really would like Congress to have a constructive discussion about the problems and the options to address the issues.

    5. Generic Name*

      That really sucks. I do want to say that the implementation of the ACA differs drastically from state to state. Colorado, for example, has an extremely easy to use web portal to sign up, and you can browse plans, including pricing!, without creating a login or anything. Signing up was a breeze, and my husband, who is self-employed, is on a plan that costs roughly $300 a month, which is much cheaper than what we were paying for my employer-sponsored plan for his coverage. And that’s with no subsidies at all. This is why it’s important to vote in state and local elections in addition to the national election (just a plug to anyone who is reading- I’m not saying I know anything about your voting record, obviously :) ).

  12. Phantasia*

    I am in the middle of this right now and the roll out seems a bit bumpy. I was taking advantage of COBRA in March, and am still seeing a bill for April. I am not sure if I should make the payment. With COBRA you have a 30 day grace period to pay, but payments in grace period can create gaps in coverage. Fortunately these gaps would be retroactively taken care of, but they can create issues.

    I was told by my COBRA servicer that it could take up to 60 days for the program to be fully put in place. In the meantime I could deal with the possibility of a gap, or make a payment that should be refunded later. The information from the servicer is not very helpful.

    Has anyone else already seen an impact on their April payment?

    1. MsMaryMary*

      This all happened so fast that a lot of employers and COBRA administrators are still working out the logistics. It is very likely that your April payment will be refunded to you, but I’d suggest paying it to avoid a gap in coverage.

      1. Shirley You're Joking*

        Agreed. If you are making your payment to an administrator and not directly to your employer, I would make the payment. COBRA administrators (like PayFlex, ADP, Ceridian, etc) are extremely strict about deadlines and rules. If you normally submitted payment to your company’s HR department, I’d say to ask them if you can not pay for April while you wait for the official subsidy paperwork. But I would not take a chance that a COBRA administrator is going to work out all the details before the end of April.

        It’s a pain, but I think you should pay and get the refund later.

    2. Anna*

      I’m still being billed for April. I normally don’t officially get billed until the 2nd and I heard they’d receive the information about the COBRA subsidy on the 5th, so I’m waiting until around then to pay it. I also don’t trust them to actually refund me, so I’d rather wait than be out a lot of money that I shouldn’t have had to pay in the first place.

  13. Medico*

    Watching the news from New Zealand I have to say this is great for Americans but I really struggle to comprehend why this wasn’t put in place earlier. We have public healthcare, I pay like, $5 per item for prescription meds, $0 at the hospital, some of my GP visits are free and all of my child’s are free. Having to pay $600 per month, plus other costs, for health insurance made me gasp out loud.

    1. Moocow Cat*

      As a Canadian, this is also perplexing to me. Human culture and decisions can be quite interesting.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I mean this nicely, but every time the cost of health insurance (or maternity leave, or other related things) comes up, someone from outside the US shows up to tell us how baffled they are by it. We know it’s a terrible system. Many, many people are fighting for public options or universal healthcare and have been for years. For many reasons, it’s slow going and comments like this aren’t very helpful.

      1. Audrey*

        Agree, ThatGirl. Candadians and others talking about how perplexing our U.S. system is smacks of rubbing their privilege in our faces while we struggle. I wish people would opt to NOT hit “submit” so much of the time ….

    3. JSPA*

      Yep, and that can still include a massive deductible. Taxation no doubt feels very different when it comes back to everyone in the form of services and a functional-for-all social safety net.

  14. Anon3177*

    Dang!! Honestly health insurance is really the only reason I’m still working at this point. I’m not going to say I’m hoping to get RIF’d, but…

  15. Specks*

    No, I just called my cobra provider and they said that they still haven’t received any guidance from the department of labor, so I think most companies are probably in that place. However, they’re expecting to sort it all out in the next 2 weeks and then retroactively apply a refund to the start of the month.

    1. MKinCA*

      @Specks — did your COBRA provider say they will be automatically applying this or did they indicate that you (or your former employer) need to pro-actively do something to get it applied? I can’t tell if I just need to be patient and it will happen on its own or if I need to be vigilant and call/email my former employer and/or COBRA provider for the next few weeks (or months!) Thanks!

      1. MsMaryMary*

        From what I’m hearing, it should be automatically applied for people currently enrolled in COBRA. There are mandatory communication requirements, but part of the delay is that the DOL hasn’t created a model of what the notice needs to say. You will get *something* in the mail from either your employer or COBRA administrator, but it probably won’t come out until mid April at the earliest. There’s a good chance it won’t be until May.

  16. Moocow Cat*

    As a Canadian, I’m very happy to hear that Americans have better access to health care!

  17. MKinCA*

    Wow, this is news to me! I was laid off on May 31, 2020 and went on COBRA immediately to continue my family’s coverage (me, spouse, 2 kids). My spouse is self-employed with no insurance plan and has always been covered via my employer’s plan. We have been paying COBRA this whole time. So…what happens now? It seems that they don’t cover premiums previously paid but that we will get a break from paying premiums going forward, for 6 mos? Also, does anyone know if this covers medical only (i.e. my COBRA was for family medical, family dental and personal vision coverage — are all categories covered or just medical?) Thanks to anyone who can weigh-in or share links where I can read more!

    1. AudreyP*

      I contacted the Department of Labor 866-487-2365, who referred me to the Employee Benefits Security Administration 866-444-3272. That number recognizes the area code of the phone from which you are making the call and forwards you to the local office. They just told me that people laid off on or after mid-March 2020 who did or did not elect into COBRA are eligible. Even if they signed up for 2 months and decided they could not afford it and dropped it, they can still get the new assistance. The way to get that assistance is to go back to the COBRA plan administrator or your former employer. Good luck!!

    2. MsMaryMary*

      The subsidy would only apply going forward from April 1, but it does apply to dental and vision too.

      Honestly, google “2021 COBRA Subsidies” and you’ll find a ton of posts from law firms and HR sites directed at employers. That might be easier than wading through the government publications.

  18. Sharkzle*

    I wish this could cover my situation too…I just put in my notice at work with the intention to start my own business but in reality it’s because of burnout. Too much work to do, not enough time, pressure to get it all done, work responsibilities were shifted into an area where I discovered that I can do the job well but really, really, hate doing it and after months of screaming for help to my managers, I just can’t do it anymore. I so wish it would cover people who just can’t do it anymore and need time to recover for their mental health.

    1. AudreyP*

      I am starving for a job. Would you like to refer me to your soon-to-be-former employer? Is there remote work available? Take care of yourself! :-)

  19. PJ*

    Glad that the government implemented this piece.

    I’m fortunate that it doesn’t apply to me at this point, but I remember the similar program in 2009 that helped when I was laid off in 4Q 2008. At that time the subsidy was partial – I believe we had to pay 35 percent and the government paid the rest. So I’m glad they didn’t overlook this piece in this COVID response.

  20. Goose*

    Is this at all retroactive? My cobra was too expensive (I was let go last June) so I went on an ACA plan. I am not in my second ACA plan and have a new job but still have another month until I’m eligible for my new work plan.

    1. MsMaryMary*

      You can enroll again in COBRA and get the subsidy even if you waved or dropped it before, as long as you’re still in your 18 month eligibility window. However, as soon as you’re eligible for your new employer’s plan you’re no longer eligible for the subsidy.

  21. AKchic*

    What irritates me is they aren’t saying whether someone who’s contract ended will qualify for this. My union has no information. I can’t get in touch with anyone on the gov’t side. Basically, I have to wait for COBRA and *hope* I qualify, and if not, hey, just *maybe* I can scrape $1953 together in time when rent and other bills are due.

    1. AudreyP*

      AKchic – Call the Employee Benefits Security Administration 866-444-3272. That number recognizes the area code of the phone from which you are making the call and forwards you to the local office. They can tell you if you qualify and how to apply. Good luck!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        That’s a cool feature, but a lot of people have phone numbers from area codes they no longer live in.

      2. S1*

        Thank You for that. I have been paying mine monthly..& am in my 18 month until NEXT February..still (sadly unemployed,). I have been borrowing $ to cover COBRA. I really hope I can get a reprieve. Calling now . Thanks for taking the time!

  22. HunterD*

    Alison begins by saying “If you’ve lost your job in the last 18 months …”
    Is this only looking back or is going forward as well?
    I’m at risk of losing my job in the next 60 days.

    1. Shirley You're Joking*

      Sorry you are at risk of losing your job. This subsidy will apply to you if you lose your job before Sept. The 100% subsidy lasts for 6 months, but no later than Sept 30. So, if your last day of coverage as an active employee is June 30, you would be able to have the free COBRA coverage for July, Aug, and Sept.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      It’s only going forward, but counts if you’re someone who started going back, because the window itself is 18 mos.

  23. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

    Don’t forget the ten essential benefits that plans are required to cover. One of those ten things is mental health. That is HUGE. I remember the pre-ACA days when you would be considered uninsurable on the individual market if you had ever been treated for a mental health issue anytime in your life. If you had a group plan through your employer, many plans wouldn’t cover mental health at all, or would require you to pay extra for a rider in order go get that coverage. Even if you had a plan that included mental health coverage, oftentimes it was covered at a much lower percentage and had very strict limits. (For example, an office visit to a primary care physician would be covered at, say, 90% per visit, no matter how many visits you made per year. A visit to a counselor or psychiatrist would be covered at 50% per visit, and you were limited to 10 visits per year – any more would have to be paid for completely out of pocket.) Of course the ACA isn’t perfect and could stand to have several improvements – but it’s so much better than the way things used to be.

  24. Angela*

    My former employer says they haven’t received any info from the government so I’m not eligible, is this true?

    1. DJ Abbott*

      From what I’ve read everyone is waiting for info and guidance. I hope they meant they don’t know if you’re eligible. It would be wrong to be saying you’re not eligible when they don’t have all the info.

      1. Angela*

        Thanks for the reply. I was laid off on Feb 26 and have until April 26 to elect COBRA coverage. I called today and was told if I do elect coverage I will need to pay for March and April before my COBRA insurance would go back into effect. They also said they will send out notices if I am eligible for COBRA to be covered under this act but that they don’t have any information. I didn’t know that there were certain eligibilities for the COBRA repayment, so I was a little confused. I’m hoping they just were unsure what they were talking about.

        1. Phantasia*

          Apparently the requirement that you “catch up” on previous premiums is not necessary to take advantage of the free coverage.

  25. Kat*

    Would he be eligible for this or is it just for those who lost their jobs previous to the bill going into effect or would someone who lost their job today (an actually possibility in our household) qualify? And does having a spouse who’s insurance you could go on count as being eligible for other coverage? My husband and the kids are currently on his employer sponsored plan. They could theoretically go on mine if he is fired, but it is wildly not affordable.

  26. Mom Cried Happy Tears*

    So grateful that you posted this! My dad lost his job in February, and my mom doesn’t work outside the home. They couldn’t afford the COBRA premiums or the private insurance costs, so they were going without. They both got COVID two weeks ago and have been pretty sick, including one trip to the ER.

    When I saw this, I texted my parents to see if they knew. They didn’t, and this is such a relief for them. My mom said “Thank you thank you thank you! I needed some good news!”

    So thank you, Alison, from me and my parents!

    1. DJ Abbott*

      Until then, maybe they could get a short-term plan with a high deductible? I’m in Illinois and paying $226/month for mine. It helps a little with routine costs and prescriptions, but the main reason is to protect from bankruptcy if anything happens. It has a flat $75 fee for an urgent care visit.
      The one I have is for 6 months and can be cancelled anytime.

      1. Mom Cried Happy Tears*

        The short term plans they found we’re over $1000! I think they’re planning to backdate COBRA and pay the March premium. It’s expensive, but one month was doable. I appreciate the suggestion!

  27. Curious*

    I was laid off permanently in November. Due to the fact I had been there 6 years, I qualified for 6 months insurance if I paid my portion (350+) we have been paying this. Would this be reimbursable? I had a state job in MN and was a member of AFSCME. Not sure of eligibility for this.

  28. Judy*

    I was laid off in August of 2020. My former employer agreed to pay for my health insurance until the end of the year. I got a job in late January (yay!) so never had to worry about Cobra. Unfortunately the job was a dud and I resigned after 5 weeks. I’m now eligible for company #2’s Cobra….and does that constitute being “eligible for another plan”?? Looking back I wished I’d never taken job #2 because I lost unemployment and, now probably, the Cobra subsidy. Look before you leap!!

  29. Elizabeth West*

    This is really awesome. I’m glad people will be covered.

    I do wish there was something for people who were unemployed before coronavirus, though. The pandemic made job hunting a lot harder and my state is a seething cauldron of garbage that didn’t expand Medicaid. There’s nothing for me at all. I’m just happy the vaccine is free, at least.

  30. Kelliu*

    Thank you for sharing! I got laid off in March and my employer-provided health insurance ends on March 31, 2021. I have been working with my employer’s broker on this and today got notified that my health insurance will stay active without any cost; however, they told me that I have to pay for my son’s premium to keep him on my plan. He had been on my plan as my dependent before I was laid off. My understanding is that this new law will also cover his with no cost to me. Am I right? I appreciate if someone would know about this. Thank you!

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