COBRA Premium Assistance Subsidy Extended; New Model Notices Issued


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”) provided a nine-month subsidy of COBRA premiums for individuals whose employment was terminated involuntarily (and their qualified beneficiaries) between September 1, 2008, and December 31, 2009. ARRA also required employers to provide certain notifications relating to the COBRA subsidy. On December 19, 2009, President Obama signed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010 (“DODAA”), which extended the availability of COBRA premium subsidies from nine to 15 months, and to terminations occurring through February 28, 2010. In January 2010, new model notices were released by the Department of Labor, pursuant to DODAA. Both ERISA and the tax code impose penalties for failures to timely provide the required notices or to make COBRA coverage available. Penalties may be assessed of up to $110 per day under ERISA, and an excise tax penalty of up to $200 per day under the tax code. Also, participants (or the Department of Labor) may sue to secure COBRA coverage (or the benefits it would have offered) and recover the related attorneys’ fees. In addition, ERISA permits the recovery of “other relief” that may entail substantial damages depending on the circumstances.

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