The Division of Labor (“DOL”) lately issued key steering within the type of incessantly requested questions (“FAQs”) about COBRA Premium Help below the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”).  Along with issuing the FAQs, the DOL issued mannequin notices and introduced a brand new web site devoted to the COBRA premium subsidy below ARPA, which may be discovered on the following hyperlink: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/cobra/premium-subsidy.

The COBRA subsidy provisions of ARPA have three main parts:

  1. It supplies as much as six months of totally sponsored COBRA premiums, together with sure particular election rights, for eligible COBRA certified beneficiaries;
  2. It imposes two new discover necessities on employers; and
  3. Importantly, supplies for a corresponding tax credit score for the corporate or entity paying for the COBRA premium subsidy.

To begin, employers that sponsor group well being plans for his or her staff should pay COBRA premiums for any “Help Eligible Particular person” (or “AEI” for brief), for as much as a six-month interval that runs from April 1, 2021 via September 30, 2021 (the “Subsidy Interval”).  AEI is outlined as any COBRA certified beneficiary who misplaced protection on account of an involuntary termination or discount in hours, however notably the lack of protection doesn’t should consequence from a COVID-related occasion.  Additionally noteworthy is that this COBRA premium cost is required for any certified beneficiary who was involuntarily terminated or had a discount in hours and is eligible for COBRA continuation protection through the Subsidy Interval, not simply those that have been involuntarily terminated or had a discount in hours through the Subsidy Interval itself.  This in flip implicates three teams:

  1. Certified beneficiaries who have been already enrolled in COBRA and would proceed to be enrolled throughout this six-month window;
  2. Certified beneficiaries who’re nonetheless eligible to enroll in COBRA, however who didn’t enroll but; and
  3. Certified beneficiaries who have been enrolled in COBRA at one time, however let protection lapse (assuming these people nonetheless have time remaining below their preliminary COBRA continuation interval – which is as much as 18 months following their qualifying occasion or 36 months in sure states).

Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be missed that a person would not be eligible for COBRA, nor this premium subsidy, if the person turns into eligible for protection below one other group well being plan, equivalent to via one other employer or Medicare.  Due to this fact, though the premium subsidy requirement is for as much as a six-month interval, if the AEI turns into eligible for different protection, the employer’s obligation to pay for the AEI’s COBRA premiums will finish at the moment, even whether it is previous to the tip of the Subsidy Interval.

Secondly, ARPA imposes two new discover necessities on employers:

  1. A normal discover to be offered to the AEIs, which incorporates the election discover and describes the rights to a premium subsidy; and
  2. A discover of expiration of the subsidy, to be offered 15-45 days previous to the AEI’s subsidy expiration.

An employer will meet these discover obligations by following the mannequin notices revealed by the DOL.

The ultimate element of the COBRA ARPA provisions is that the subsidy paid by the employer is funded via a tax credit score towards the employer’s Medicare tax legal responsibility.  Normally, employers are anticipated to have the ability to declare a credit score on the employer’s quarterly employment tax returns (Kind 941), and the credit score is refundable if the COBRA subsidy paid by the employer exceeds the employer’s Medicare taxes due.  Steering from the IRS is anticipated within the close to future offering further particulars about how employers will be capable to declare the tax credit score, together with the opportunity of acquiring an advance of the credit score.

Beneath is a useful timeline of related dates related to COBRA premium subsidies below ARPA:

  • April 1, 2021: Premium subsidy interval begins
  • Might 31, 2021: Election discover to AEIs due
  • August 1, 2021 – September 15, 2021: Discover of expiration of subsidy as a consequence of AEI
  • September 30, 2021: Premium subsidy interval ends.

We can be found to help employers with navigating points surrounding the COBRA subsidy provisions of ARPA and the technical facets of the brand new FAQs and Mannequin Notices, which have been lately revealed.  When you have any questions relating to this data, please contact Michael Chan at (213) 617-5537 or Betsy Luxenberg at (202) 747-1901.

As you’re conscious, issues are altering rapidly and the help measures and interpretations described right here could change.  This text represents our greatest understanding and interpretation based mostly on the place issues presently stand.  Moreover, the knowledge offered herein doesn’t represent tax recommendation and might not be relied upon for avoidance of tax penalties or for some other objective.  Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP expressly disclaims all legal responsibility in respect to actions taken or not taken based mostly on the contents of this replace.