A COBRA question two weeks ago drew more queries. So here's more on health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act:
Question: My husband lost his job of 20 years because his company eliminated his position. He found another job but it doesn't offer medical benefits. So he is on Medicare and has supplemental insurance that costs about $450 a month. I'm on COBRA through his former employer since my part-time job doesn't offer benefits. That monthly cost is $485. We're having difficulty making these payments on our already stretched budget. Can we apply for the COBRA subsidy under the Obama administration stimulus plan even though we are both employed?
Answer: Here's good news and bad: You may be eligible but your husband probably isn't.
If he lost his job after Sept. 1, 2008, you as a dependent could be eligible for the subsidy because it is available to qualified employees and their families, said employment attorney Ellen Storch, counsel at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo in Woodbury, N.Y.
But those who receive Medicare health benefits are not eligible for the temporary federal subsidy, which pays up to 65 percent of the cost of a COBRA premium for up to nine months.
"So your husband is unfortunately out of luck," Storch said.
Q: I have just gone on disability. Does this disqualify me from the COBRA subsidy?
A: To be eligible, you must have lost your job and through no fault of your own. If you continue to be employed while receiving the disability benefits, you wouldn't be eligible for the subsidy, Storch said.
It's worth noting that if an employer terminates an employee for misconduct, then neither that person nor his or her dependents are eligible for COBRA or the federal subsidy.
The subsidy lasts for up to nine months or until the employee becomes eligible for Medicare or for a new employer's group health plan or reaches the end of COBRA coverage, whichever comes first.
Q: I was reading your column about COBRA. I am not working but I receive Social Security disability payments. Would I still be eligible for the 65 percent COBRA premium reduction?
A: Social Security disability benefits would not prevent you from receiving the subsidy, Storch said. But just like the readers in the questions above, you have to meet other criteria to be eligible.
(Carrie Mason-Draffen is the author of "151 Quick Ideas to Deal With Difficult People." She welcomes questions for the "Help Wanted" column. Contact her at 631-843-2450 or email@example.com.)
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