November 16, 2009

Assembly Approves Extension Of COBRA Coverage, Closes Loophole

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Joseph Morelle today announced the passage of a measure to include a group of individuals who were unintentionally left out of an insurance extension law passed earlier this year. This amendment to existing law was passed during an extraordinary session called by Governor Paterson.

In July, the governor signed into law (Chapter 236) a measure to extend COBRA - which allows workers to continue their group health insurance coverage for 18 months if they lose coverage due to termination or work hour reduction - to 36 months of coverage. The Chapter Amendment (Extraordinary Session Assembly Bill A.6) passed today provides a special enrollment period for those who were receiving COBRA benefits at the time the law became effective, but were subsequently unable to take advantage of the extension because of renewal deadlines for their contract.

"During these times of economic uncertainty, an increasing number of workers are experiencing extended periods of job loss or are being forced to work part-time," said Silver. "As New Yorkers face unprecedented unemployment, many have been left without health insurance. This amendment will help those who were unintentionally excluded from the law that extended benefits under COBRA to 36 months."

While providing a special enrollment period for this group, the measure will also require coverage issued during the period to: "When someone loses their insurance after losing a job or having their hours cut down, they need the option to continue their health insurance for as long as possible," Morelle (D-Irondequoit) said. "This provision will protect those who fell into a loophole denying them the choice to buy into COBRA insurance."

The chapter amendment applies this COBRA extension broadly to all policies going forward.

Silver noted that, "The Assembly continues to work with Governor Paterson and the Senate to agree on a deficit reduction plan to close this year's $3 billion budget gap."