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COBRA Subsidies for Laid-Off Workers: An Initial Report Card

Initial reports about the new COBRA premium subsidy program for recently laid-off workers indicate that enrollment in COBRA continuation coverage has increased substantially, with a healthier mix of individuals enrolling than before. Moreover, implementation has gone smoothly, and most eligible people have heard about the subsidy. Still, many of those who are eligible cannot afford to purchase COBRA coverage, even with the 65 percent premium subsidy. Very high subsidies and very easy enrollment are likely needed to enroll all, or nearly all, newly unemployed people who lack another source of affordable coverage. If the subsidies are extended beyond February 2010, Congress should provide new assistance in ways that are consistent with the existing administrative infrastructure and rules for both COBRA and the ARRA subsidies.

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R. R. Bovbjerg, S. Dorn, and J. Macri et al., COBRA Subsidies for Laid-Off Workers: An Initial Report Card, The Commonwealth Fund, December 2009.