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Pennsylvanians Encouraged to Take Another Look at COBRA Options
Date:3/5/2009

Stimulus Provides Relief on Premiums, Re-enrollment Opportunities

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario today advised Pennsylvanians who were recently laid off from a job that offered health insurance to know that that the federal stimulus package may provide them with relief on premiums and that now is the time to contact their former employer for information.

"I want to let Pennsylvanians know that additional help in paying for their COBRA coverage is now available, despite the recent reports to the contrary," Ario said. "So if you're eligible for the health insurance extension, make sure your employer is on top of things. This element of the recently enacted stimulus bill offers eligible individuals a 65 percent reduction in their premiums for up to nine months.

"Not surprisingly, many are still working to understand the new COBRA rules and comply with them. Employers and former employees may have questions, but if you feel you could be eligible and this a viable health insurance option for you and your family, do not delay. The COBRA subsidy could cover you from mid-February on."

Employers have until April 18 -- or 60 days from date of enactment -- to send notices to assistance-eligible individuals who lost coverage from Sept. 1, 2008 through Feb. 16, 2009. For those eligible for the assistance who lost employment-based health insurance on or after Feb. 17 of this year, the employer generally has 44 days from the date the employee lost coverage to provide a COBRA notice that includes an explanation of the subsidy.

Ario advised that if a person has lost a job since Sept. 1 and thinks that they qualify, they should contact their former company's human resource or benefits department to get things started. More information on federal COBRA requirements is available from the U. S. Department of Labor toll-free at 866-444-3272 or www.dol.gov/cobra.

COBRA can be an expensive option, but now be a more affordable choice for those who have declined the coverage previously because of high premiums. Other options for those out of work would be to price products in the individual market, look into the availability of a working spouse's coverage, find out about CHIP coverage for children, and consider the adultBasic program.

While there is a significant wait list for adultBasic, there is also the option to purchase the coverage at-cost, which is about $330 per month, per person.

For information on these and other options, the Insurance Department has published "Out of a Job," a health options brochure, as well as a new COBRA fact sheet. Those materials can be found in the "Publications" section of www.insurance.state.pa.us.

Consumers with questions are invited to call the Insurance Department's toll-free, automated consumer hotline at (877) 881-6388, or contact any of the department's Bureau of Consumer Services' regional offices: (717) 787-2317 in Harrisburg; (215) 560-2630 in Philadelphia; or (412) 565-5020 in Pittsburgh.

    CONTACT:
    Rosanne Placey
    Melissa Fox
    (717) 787-3289


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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Insurance
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