Local News

Legislation extends COBRA enrollment period

Posted June 19, 2009 2:34 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue signed legislation Thursday that extends the period of time for people who have been laid off from small businesses to enroll in North Carolina’s version of the federal COBRA coverage, often called “mini-COBRA.”

The move will ultimately allow these unemployed workers to receive a 65 percent subsidy for COBRA premiums under the federal economic stimulus package.

COBRA gives workers and their families the option to continue health benefits provided by their former employer's health plans for limited periods of time under certain circumstances.

Under federal law, COBRA generally applies to employers with 20 or more employees, and workers may be charged up to 102 percent of the full health insurance premium. Insurance companies of small businesses – those with fewer than 20 employees – are required to offer continuation coverage under the state program.

“Because of this legislation and the federal premium subsidy, more North Carolinians who have been laid off will be able to maintain their insurance coverage,” state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. “We hear from a lot of consumers who unfortunately have chosen not to extend their coverage through COBRA or mini-COBRA because it is simply too expensive or they missed the election period.”

Unemployed workers who are eligible for the stimulus-related benefits will be notified by their former employer’s group health insurance provider, officials said.

Consumers with general questions about COBRA benefits or other insurance questions can call the Department of Insurance at 800-546-5664. For specific questions about COBRA subsidies, enrollment periods, employer payroll tax credits or other technical information, consumers and employers can call the U.S. Department of Labor at 866-444-3272 or the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-4933.