On December 22, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Appropriations Act. This new employment law extends the period during which certain employees who are laid off or otherwise lose their jobs through no fault of their own can receive a federal subsidy of their health care costs.
More specifically, this new law extends the period of the subsidy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly called the 2009 Economic Stimulus package. Specifically, for a limited period the United States government will pay 65% of the health insurance premiums for qualified employees, for up to nine months after an employee is involuntarily fired or laid off. Under the Stimulus package, that subsidy applies to qualified employees who lose their jobs between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. The 2010 Defense Appropriations Act extends that period through February 28, 2010. It also extends the maximum length of the subsidy from 9 months to 15 months.
This benefit applies to former employees who are covered by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) who involuntarily lose their jobs between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. COBRA applies to people who are eligible to receive health insurance benefits from a company with at least 20 employees. The government subsidy also applies to former employees who work in states that have “comparable continuation coverage” that apply to smaller companies (often called mini-COBRA laws). That includes employees who work for smaller companies in both New York and New Jersey.
The government stipend is reduced for people who make more than $125,000 per year, and married couples who file joint tax returns and earn more than $250,000 combined. The benefits phase out completely for individuals who make more than $145,000 and for couples filing joint tax returns who earn more than $290,000 combined.