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The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009 Cobra Impacts
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The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009 Cobra Impacts

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Overview of the impacts ARRA has on COBRA - individuals, group health plans and employers.

Overview of the impacts ARRA has on COBRA - individuals, group health plans and employers.

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The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009 Cobra Impacts The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009 Cobra Impacts Document Transcript

  • DA VINCI PARTNERS INC. Escape the Average. Engage the Best COBRA & The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) Impacts on Individuals, Group Health Plans and Employers 1 DA VINCI PARTNERS INC. | PO BOX 1248, MANHASSET, NEW YORK 11030
  • Synopsis The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides premium reductions and additional election opportunities for health benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, most commonly known to many as “COBRA.” Eligible individuals pay only 35% of their COBRA premiums and the remaining 65% is reimbursed to the coverage provider through a payroll tax credit. The premium reduction applies to periods of health coverage beginning on or after February 17, 2009 and lasts for up to nine months for those eligible for COBRA during the period beginning September 1, 2008 and ending December 31, 2009 due to an involuntary termination of employment that occurred during that period. The TAA Health Coverage Improvement Act of 2009, enacted as part of ARRA, also made changes with regard to COBRA continuation coverage. Legislative Background ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) Public Law 111-5 was enacted on February 17, 2009. Section 3001 of ARRA relates specifically to premium assistance for COBRA continuation of coverage. Section 3001 provides for a 65% reduction in the premium otherwise payable by certain involuntary terminated individuals and their families who elect COBRA continuation health coverage. Plans Subject to Premium Reduction Provisions The COBRA premium reduction provisions apply to: • All group health plans sponsored by private-sector employers or employee organizations (unions) subject to the COBRA rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA); • Plans sponsored by State or local governments subject to the continuation provisions under the Public Health Service Act; and • Plans in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) Premium reduction provisions are also available for group health insurance that is required by State law to provide comparable continuation coverage (such as “mini-COBRA”). Assistance Eligibility Criteria Based on ARRA, an individual is eligible if following criteria are met : 1. Individual is a qualified beneficiary as the result of an involuntary termination during the period from September 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009. 2. An individual who is eligible for COBRA continuation coverage at any time during that period; and 3. Elects coverage Coverage Periods Premium reduction applies to the 1st period of coverage beginning on or after 2/17/09. An assistance eligible individual is eligible for premium reduction for up to nine months from the first month the premium reduction provisions of ARRA apply to the individual. Premium reduction ends: 1. If the individual becomes eligible for coverage under any other group health plan. However, if the other group health plan provides ONLY dental, vision, counseling or NOT FOR REPRINT, COPY OR DISTRIBUTION WITHOUT EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF DA VINCI PARTNERS INC., 2009 2
  • referral services (or any combination of), flexible health spending arrangement or health reimbursement arrangement of coverage for treatment furnished in an on-site medical facility maintained by the employer and consists of mostly first aid services, prevention and wellness care. They are still eligible for premium reduction as outlined in the section 3001 of ARRA; or 2. Medicare Eligible Premium reduction does not EXTEND beyond the period of COBRA continuation coverage. An individual receiving the premium reduction who becomes eligible for coverage under any other group health plan or Medicare is required to notify the group health plan of eligibility for that other coverage. If the individual fails to notify the group health plan, the individual is subject to a tax penalty of 110 percent of the premium reduction improperly received after eligibility for the other coverage. The “Second” Election Opportunity Qualified beneficiaries whose qualifying event was an involuntary termination of employment during the period from September 1, 2008 through February 16, 2009 and who did not elect COBRA when it was first offered OR who did elect COBRA but are no longer enrolled (for example, dropped COBRA coverage because they were unable to continue paying the premium) have a new, second election opportunity. Individuals eligible for the extended COBRA election period must receive a notice informing them of this opportunity. This notice must be provided by April 18, 2009 and individuals have 60 days after the notice is provided to elect COBRA. However, this special election period does not extend the period of COBRA continuation coverage beyond the original maximum period (generally 18 months from the employee's involuntary termination). COBRA coverage elected in this special election period begins with the first period of coverage beginning on or after February 17, 2009. Under ARRA; with respect to State continuation coverage, this special election period opportunity is not required to be provided pursuant to State insurance law. A State can take action, however, to provide an additional election period in its continuation coverage program for individuals involuntarily terminated from September 1, 2008 through February 16, 2009 in order for them to request premium assistance based upon involuntary termination occurring during that period. For more information on rights and responsibilities regarding election periods under State law, contact your specific State insurance commissioner’s office or CMS. How ARRA Impacts Eligible Individuals, Group Health Plans and Employers Group Health Plans Group Health Plans must treat assistance eligible individuals who pay 35% of the premium otherwise payable for COBRA continuation as having paid the full amount of premium. An assistance eligible invidual who pays the reduced premium pursuant to ARRA must be treated by the plan as having paid the full premium. If the plan does not treat the assistance eligible individual as having paid the full premium, it is deemed a failure to meet the requirements of the underlying statute. In the case of a plan subject to the COBRA continuation coverage requirements under section 4980B, the failure to treat the assistance eligible individual making the reduced payment as having made the full payment would be a NOT FOR REPRINT, COPY OR DISTRIBUTION WITHOUT EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF DA VINCI PARTNERS INC., 2009 3
  • failure to satisfy the requirements of section 4980B and may result in the imposition of the excise tax under section 4980B(b) Employer The employer/multi-employer health plan or insurer is reimbursed for the 65% of the premium that is not paid by the assistance eligible individual through a payroll tax credit. Under ARRA, an employer may allow assistance eligible individual to elect coverage different from the coverage under the plan in which the eligible individual was enrolled prior to involuntary termination, and the premium reduction will apply with respect to the different coverage. It is important to note, this provision does not change the basic tenet under Federal COBRA that a group health plan must allow a qualified beneficiary to elect to continue the coverage in which the individual is enrolled as of the qualifying event. If offered, the assistance eligible individual has 90 days after receiving notice of the option to elect the other coverage. The premium for coverage offered under this option CAN NOT exceed the premium for the coverage the individual had prior to the involuntary termination. Moreover, the coverage offered under this option must be coverage offered to active employee and CAN NOT be coverage that provides only dental, vision, counseling (or some combination), a flexible spending arrangement under section 106(c) of the Code, or coverage that provides coverage through an on site medical facility maintained by the employer that consists primarily of first aid, prevention and wellness care or similar care or any combination of such care. ARRA amends the Code to add Section 6432, which provides that “the person to whom premiums are payable” is entitled to reimbursement for the amount of premiums not paid by assistance eligible individuals by reason of ARRA in the form of a credit against payroll tax liabilities. For this purpose, payroll taxes are defined as: • Federal income tax withholding under section 3402 • The Employee share of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) Tax under section 31-2; and • The Employer share of FICA tax under section 3111 The credit is only claimed on the person’s/employer’s payroll tax return, in most cases Form 941 which is filed quarterly. If the amount of the credit to which the person/employer is entitled exceeds the person’s payroll liabilities on the return, the person is entitled to a refund of such excess as if it were a payment of payroll taxes. Eligible Individual As previously stated, ARRA provides an extended election period for certain individuals who did not have an election of COBRA continuation coverage in effect on 2/17/09. The election is available for individuals who would be assistance eligible individuals if they had a COBRA continuation coverage election in effect (as a result of an involuntary termination on or after 9/1/08). This extended election period is for 60 days after the qualified beneficiaries are provided notice of the extended election period. The resulting COBRA continuation coverage could extend longer than the original maximum period (as measured with respect to the qualifying event) and begins with the first period of coverage beginning on or after 2/17/09. The extended election period applies to a group health plan subject to the Federal COBRA requirements and to temporary continuation coverage under the FEHBP, but not the State continuation coverage requirements. NOT FOR REPRINT, COPY OR DISTRIBUTION WITHOUT EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF DA VINCI PARTNERS INC., 2009 4
  • The amount of any premium reduction is excluded from an individual’s gross income under new section 139C. For purposes of determining the gross income of the employer and any welfare benefit plan of which the group health plan is part, the amount of the premium reduction is intended to be treated as an employee contribution to the group health plan. i If the premium reduction is provided with respect to COBRA continuation coverage for an individual, the individual’s spouse, or the individual’s dependent, and the individual’s modified adjust gross income (adjusted gross income plus amounts excluded under section 911, 931 or 933) exceeds $145,000 ($290,000 for married filing jointly) the amount of the premium reduction is recaptured as an INCREASE in the individual’s Federal income tax liability. The recapture is phased in for individuals with modified adjusted gross income in excess of $125,000 ($250,000 if filing jointly). An individual may elect to permanently waive the right to the premium reduction. In addition, an individual who receives the premium reduction under ARRA for a month is disqualified from receiving the Health Coverage Tax Credit under section 35 for that month. i H.R. Rep.No.111-16, at 716 (2009) (Conf. Rep) IRS Notice 2009-27 NOT FOR REPRINT, COPY OR DISTRIBUTION WITHOUT EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF DA VINCI PARTNERS INC., 2009 5