The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the "ARRA") amends portions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended ("COBRA"), to require premium reductions and additional enrollment opportunities. Under the ARRA, employers must provide to each qualified beneficiary who experienced, or who will experience, a qualifying event between Sept. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009, a written notice regarding the availability of subsidized COBRA premiums. Employers must also provide assistance-eligible individuals who experienced a qualifying event between Sept. 1, 2008 and Feb. 16, 2009 with notice of the availability of an extended election period and the individual's rights and obligations to receive subsidized COBRA premiums. On March 19, 2008, the DOL released model notices to assist employers in complying with the new requirements. A brief description and a link to each model notice can be found below.
General Notice (Full version) – The General Notice is the COBRA election notice updated to include information about subsidized COBRA premiums required by the ARRA. Plans subject to the Federal COBRA provisions may use the General Notice to satisfy the COBRA election notice requirement as well as the ARRA COBRA notice requirement for all qualified beneficiaries who experience a qualifying event at any time from Sept. 1, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2009.
General Notice (Abbreviated version) – The abbreviated notice is an abbreviated version of the General Notice that does not include the COBRA coverage election information. It may be sent in lieu of the full version to individuals who experienced a qualifying event on or after Sept. 1, 2008, have already elected COBRA coverage, and still have coverage.
Alternative Notice – Insurance carriers that provide group health insurance coverage in accordance with state law must send the Alternative Notice to persons eligible for continuation coverage under state law.
Notice in Connection with Extended Election Periods ("Extended Election Notice") – Plans subject to the federal COBRA provisions must send the Extended Election Notice to any assistance-eligible individual who (i) had a qualifying event at any time from Sept. 1, 2008 through Feb. 16, 2009; and (ii) either did not elect COBRA continuation coverage, or who elected it but subsequently discontinued COBRA. This notice must be provided by April 18, 2009.
Employers should immediately begin work internally and with their outside COBRA administrators to update and distribute the required notices.