Many jobless workers may soon lose COBRA subsidy

The cornerstone American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law in February, contained a key provision to help the newly unemployed keep their employer-sponsored health-care plans. Most employees who lose their jobs can keep coverage for up to 18 months, under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985, but the cost is often prohibitive, because it requires recipients to pay the full premium, plus an administrative fee to their former employer.

Under ARRA, however, many recently laid-off workers could keep their plans, thanks to a 65 percent subsidy, paid to employers, that lasts up to nine months. That substantial discount has been a boon to jobless people who couldn't otherwise afford to keep health coverage. But the subsidy will end Dec. 1 for those who were enrolled March 1 when the lower payments first became effective, unless Congress acts to extend it.