Hamm advises unemployed North Dakotans to check into health insurance subsidy and second chance at mini-COBRA coverage
Posted on 5/14/2009
BISMARCK, N.D.-Thanks to a new law passed during North Dakota's 2009 legislative session, employees laid off by the state's smallest employers now have an opportunity to access an important health insurance subsidy.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm said the Insurance Department requested legislation to allow North Dakotans who work for small employers to have a second election period in order to take advantage of a subsidy that will pay 65 percent of the cost of maintaining health insurance. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly referred to as the Stimulus Plan, extends the subsidy to those who worked for large employers through COBRA; the North Dakota amendment extends the same opportunity to those who worked for small employers.
Workers must have been involuntarily separated between Sept. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009 to qualify for the subsidy. Additionally, North Dakotans laid off from small businesses (fewer than 20 employees) between Sept. 1, 2008 and Feb. 17, 2009 who did not elect state continuation benefits when initially eligible are now entitled to a second election period, providing another opportunity to elect coverage. Employers must notify laid-off employees of the subsidy option no later than May 19, 2009. Applicants then have 60 days from the date of notice in which to elect coverage.
"Even if employees that were laid off initially said no to continued health coverage, they still need to be notified of this second election period," Hamm said.
Employees may qualify for the 65 percent subsidy for up to nine months. Income limits may apply. The subsidy is reimbursed to the employer through a payroll tax credit.
"I encourage North Dakotans to look into this subsidy," Hamm said. "For those who are eligible, it could make a real difference in the affordability of insurance coverage for people and their families."
COBRA refers to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees; mini-COBRA (also referred to as state continuation) applies to employers with fewer than 20 employees. More information about COBRA payments and the new law is available on the U.S. Department of Labor's website at www.dol.gov/COBRA. Consumers are welcome to contact the Insurance Department at 1-800-247-0560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.