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The Stimulus Plan and What It Means To You, The Employer

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The Stimulus Plan and What It Means To You, The Employer

In an effort to revitalize our economy, President Obama signed into law a $790 billion economic stimulus package – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This plan combines $281 billion in tax cuts with $311 billion in programs funded by appropriation committees and $193 billion for benefits programs.
COBRA Components
This plan includes provisions to help eligible jobless workers pay for health insurance under COBRA. Available to employers with 20 or more employees, COBRA allows newly unemployed workers to keep health insurance provided by their former employers. Traditionally, these premiums are prohibitively expensive.
Components include:
Premium Reduction/Subsidy: For workers who were involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, the government will subsidize 65% of their premiums under COBRA for nine months. This subsidy also applies to healthcare continuation coverage if required by the state.

Special Election Period: For workers who were involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and the day the stimulus Law goes into effect, and who did not sign up for COBRA, will get an additional 60 days to do so and receive the subsidy.

New Notification Period: Within 60 days of enactment, the Employer or COBRA Administrator shall provide an additional notification to any Assistance Eligible Employee who became entitled to elect COBRA before enactment of this Law.

Tax Credit for Employers: To offset the employer’s expense, the employer may take a full tax credit for its expenditures out of its payroll taxes including both income tax withholding and FICA.

High Income Exclusion: If the modified adjusted gross income (AGI) of a participant exceeds $125,000 a year, or a family’s AGI exceeds $250,000, their income tax will be raised by the premium reduction amount – effectively removing the subsidy.

Plan Enrollment Option: Qualified Beneficiaries (QBs) under the stimulus will have the option to change plans to another product offered by the Employer with the following requirements:
Employer agrees to allow QBs to enroll in different coverage
The selected plan does not exceed the premium for coverage in which the individual was enrolled at the time the qualifying event occurred
Plan cannot be Dental, Vision, Counseling, Referral or FSA
Coverage is also offered to active employees

What This Means To You and What You Will Need to Do:
Send a notice to involuntarily terminated employees since September 1, 2008 with a description of their rights and obligations regarding the subsidy.
Update all COBRA forms and enrollment materials to reflect the changes.
Or, if currently working with a COBRA Administrator, coordinate with the Administrator to send notices and update forms.
Take a full tax credit out of their payroll taxes for its expenditures associated with the subsidy.