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American Rescue Plan Act COBRA Benefits Subsidy for Eligible Members

The Fund is aware that many members have been contacting the PSC office, as well as our own, asking when the enrollment forms for the new federally funded COBRA subsidy will be going out. We completely understand our members' eagerness to receive the enrollment materials, and we very much appreciate your patience. Here is a brief explanation of the time-consuming process required by the Department of Labor (DOL) before we can send the applications to our eligible members: 

Each of the 700-plus applications to be sent must be individualized and member-specific, including personal dates of employer-provided coverage termination, what COBRA coverage would cost the individual member, and dates when individual COBRA coverage would end. 

Plus! The enrollment materials are required to include 15 to 20 pages of DOL regulations, and an application form created by the DOL. It is a very big job. The federal deadline for sending out the COBRA packages is May 31, and we hope to meet it, if not sooner.

Thank you, again, for your patience and understanding.

The message below from Welfare Fund Executive Director Donna Costa was sent to our members who may be eligible for the new federally-funded COBRA subsidy. Read a pdf of the hard copy here.

Dear Member:

I am writing to let you know about an important provision in the new federal stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, that may apply to you. The 2021 federal stimulus bill includes an ARPA COBRA provision that may provide up to a six-month federally financed COBRA subsidy (for the period starting April 1, 2021 and ending September 30, 2021). This provision applies to eligible employees whose health insurance was terminated on or after November 1, 2019, because of involuntary job loss or a reduction of hours. This federal financing fully covers the COBRA health insurance premiums for eligible individuals. Our records indicate that you may be eligible for up to six months of free COBRA.

PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund chairperson Barbara Bowen asked me to write on behalf of the Fund even before complete information is available on how to enroll in order to obtain subsidized Welfare Fund COBRA benefits. Barbara is concerned that you not miss the chance to enroll at the earliest possible date if you are eligible. So please be on the lookout for future Welfare Fund correspondence, which will include the federally mandated Enrollment Notification. The deadline for your enrollment in the program is 60 days after you receive the Enrollment Notification from the Fund office. If you are eligible for coverage prior to the enrollment deadline, your subsidized coverage will be retroactive to your eligibility date on or after April 1, 2021. The Fund notice will provide the necessary information on what you must do to enroll in the 2021 COBRA subsidy program. The Welfare Fund will post updates on our website, psccunywf.org, as we receive them; please check the Fund website for the latest information.

Here is an outline of the information available on the COBRA provision so far; for complete information, please consult federal guidance:

  • During the six-month period from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, the federal government will pay the full COBRA premium for eligible individuals.
  • The provision applies to employees who were enrolled in health insurance through their CUNY employment and had their coverage terminated at any time starting November 1, 2019. The provision applies even if they did not elect COBRA at that time or let their COBRA coverage lapse during their 18-month covered period. No retroactive premium payment is required unless the member is eligible for and elects COBRA coverage for periods prior to April 1, 2021.
  • Employees who lose coverage due to job loss or reduction in hours are eligible to apply for the 100% subsidy of COBRA premiums for the period April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, as are family members who also lose (or have lost) coverage along with the employee.
  • The subsidy will last for six months at most. The subsidy will end earlier if the individual’s maximum period of COBRA coverage (generally, 18 months) ends earlier than September 2021, or if the individual becomes eligible for other group health plan coverage (with limited exceptions) or Medicare. Individuals receiving the subsidy must notify the Fund of such other coverage and are subject to monetary penalties if they fail to do so.
  • The subsidy is not available, however, if the employee voluntarily terminates employment or if the member is eligible for Medicare. The subsidy is also not available to a spouse who lost coverage due to divorce or to a dependent who lost coverage due to turning age 26.

The Welfare Fund is working urgently with the New York City Benefits Program to determine how eligible employees can enroll. We will update you as soon as we know more. In the meantime, please check the Fund website psccunywf.org daily for updates.

I hope that the new COBRA benefit provides some relief for you during this challenging time.

Yours, Donna Costa
Executive Director
PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund

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