Thursday, March 4, 2010

COBRA subsidy extended through March

In a 78-19 vote, Congress voted to extend the unemployment benefits late Tuesday night and the president signed it into law. This is good news for many laid-off workers who've also lost their health insurance. If you're laid-off before March 31, you may qualify for a 65 percent premium subsidy to help you pay for your former employer's health plan. Here's more:

Who's eligible for the new COBRA subsidy? People laid-off from their job between Sept. 1, 2008-March 31, 2010 and who worked for an employer with 20 or more employees qualify for the temporary subsidy. The individual's family also qualifies if they were covered by the employer's plan.

Individuals earning more than $125,000 per year and married couples with annual incomes over $290,000 are not eligible for the subsidy.

Also, If an employer goes out of business or stops offering health insurance its employees are no longer eligible for COBRA or the subsidy.

How much is the subsidy and how do people enroll? People who qualify for the subsidy pay 35 percent of the total premium. The U.S. Government will reimburse the employer or insurer for the remaining 65 percent of the premium. Employers must notify former employees if they qualify for the COBRA subsidy.

How long does the subsidy last? The subsidy is good for 9 months.

What if I lost my job, but didn't select COBRA before? Can I still apply for the subsidy? Yes, employers must notify former employees who qualify for the subsidy and employees have 60 days to decide.

Where can I learn more about COBRA and the subsidy? Visit the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration page FAQs For Employees About COBRA Continuation Health Coverage or call 1-866-444-3272. Or visit our special COBRA page

How healthy is your county?

A new report, released by the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ranks the overall health of each county in each of the 50 states. Key factors in the ranking are how healthy people are and how long they live.

They also look at health impacts such as: smoking, obesity, binge drinking, access to primary care providers, rates of high school graduation, rates of violent crime, air pollution levels, liquor store density, unemployment rates and number of children living in poverty.

So now, what you really want to know: healthiest county? San Juan County. The least healthy? Ferry County. See the full results.