Federal Subsidy for Laid-Off Workers' Health Insurance

Brief

Federal Subsidy for Laid-Off Workers' Health Insurance

A First Year's Report Card for the New COBRA Premium Assistance

Time-limited ARRA subsidies to laid-off workers for COBRA continuation coverage have substantially raised enrollment, even though layoffs sharply cut household income. The two largest data sets reviewed here showed average rises in take-up rates of 43 percent and 100 percent. However, rates varied widely across employers, and tax-subsidy claims to the IRS are thus far running much lower than expected. Coming closer to universal coverage for this population or for all Americans would require higher subsidy and possibly also a mandate to obtain coverage-two features that increase COBRA participation in a separate Massachusetts program for unemployed residents.

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