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American Rescue Plan Act and COBRA Changes

President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) into law on March 11, 2021. The passing of this law will bring relief to many across America but it will also bring new regulations. The health insurance industry has received the biggest change since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. If you have any questions regarding group benefits or general insurance inquiries, contact our team!

ARP and COBRA Changes

• Summary — One of the biggest changes our team has seen under this new law is the subsidy provision for COBRA coverage. In the past, any employee who lost access to coverage was given an opportunity to keep benefits for a duration of 18 -36 months on their dime. Now the ARP is providing a subsidy to employers who front the COBRA premiums for all eligible individuals. Employees that qualify as an “Assistance Eligible Individual” are granted COBRA coverage by the employer and the federal government will reimburse the payments.

• Assistance Eligible Individuals — In order to qualify an employee must have lost coverage due to a reduction of hours or involuntary termination of employment. They must also elect COBRA continuation coverage, must not be eligible for Medicare, and must not be eligible for coverage under any other group health plans, such as spouse or new employer. Anyone terminated for gross misconduct or voluntarily resigns does not qualify for COBRA coverage.

• What Periods are Covered — Currently the ARP states that COBRA premiums will be subsidized for all AEIs during April 1st through September 30th. As questions arise, it is possible new policies and further regulations can alter these dates. Qualifying events can go as far back as November 2019. Note that COBRA subsidy is not retroactive and can only be used on a go-forward basis during the six-month subsidy period.

• Employer Responsibilities — Employers will have plenty of notices to send as a result of this change. All AEI’s in the coverage window must be notified and employers should begin tracking down any AEI from November 2019. AEI’s will have 60 days to elect COBRA after receiving the required notice from the employer. Model notices will be available through IRS and DOL. ARP does allow employers to implement an optional plan downgrade that reduces coverage to a less expensive plan when eligible for COBRA.

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