The COBRA subsidy program to help laid-off workers shoulder the cost of continuing health insurance coverage will finally expire at the end of August.
For the last two years, the program has subsidized 65% of the cost of health insurance premiums for millions of laid-off American workers. Workers laid off in May 2010 were the last group to take advantage of the 15-month subsidy. Workers laid off after that date were no longer eligible.
The program began in February 2009 as part of the economic stimulus bill passed by Congress at the height of the recession. Congress has extended the subsidy several times since then, but allowed it to expire due to growing concern about the federal deficit.
Although exact numbers aren’t available on how many laid-off employees took advantage of the subsidy credit, congressional analysts estimated that the subsidy could help 7 million laid-off employees and their families at a cost of $25 billion. As a result of the subsidy, COBRA enrollment dramatically increased.