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The COBRA Subsidy and Health Insurance for the Unemployed

With the nation’s unemployment rate rising to its highest levels in decades as a result of the recession, many families have lost their employer-sponsored health coverage or are at risk of doing so. In an effort to help people maintain coverage after a layoff, the stimulus legislation known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides temporary subsidies to some workers so that they can maintain their previous employer-sponsored coverage through COBRA after losing their job.

This issue brief examines the COBRA provisions of the legislation and answers key questions about how the subsidy works and who might benefit. It also explains how the provisions interact with other laws and programs designed to help people obtain and maintain health coverage, and it discusses other coverage options for the unemployed. Congress and President Obama have repeatedly extended both the eligibility period and the duration of the COBRA subsidy. It now lasts for up to 15 months. An updated fact sheet answers key questions about the subsidy extension.

Fact Sheet: Extension of COBRA Subsidy – An Update (.pdf)

Issue Brief: The COBRA Subsidy and Health Insurance for the Unemployed (.pdf)

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.