Labor Department Proposes Regulations Pushing Obamacare For People Leaving Jobs

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The Department of Labor proposed regulations Friday that would require employers to notify workers leaving their jobs that they’re eligible to purchase Obamacare exchange coverage.

A 1985 law gives employees the right to continue purchasing their own health benefits for a limited amount of time after leaving their job, or undergoing certain other life changes, such as a reduction in hours that makes them ineligible for employer-sponsored coverage.

Employers are already required by the law to inform workers of their COBRA coverage options when first hired and when leaving their job. The labor department’s proposed regulations would require that these same notices also inform workers that they may purchase health insurance from Obamacare exchanges instead.

“In many cases, workers eligible for COBRA continuation coverage can save significant sums of money by instead purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for employee benefits security Phyllis Borzi said in a statement Friday. 

Marilyn Tavenner, chief of Obamacare administrator the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, applauded the move in a statement and used the opportunity to plug the first open enrollment period’s number of sign-ups.

“With over eight million enrollees, we know that the Marketplace is working and is providing consumers with additional choices and control over their health care,” Tavenner said.

DOL officials emphasized that outgoing workers may be eligible for taxpayer subsidies to pay for their health insurance on the exchanges, a benefit not offered under COBRA coverage.

The latest Obamacare enrollment report released Thursday found that 85 percent of exchange sign-ups nationwide were eligible for some level of premium subsidies.

Obamacare insurance is typically only available for purchase during select open enrollment periods, but those undergoing significant life changes may qualify for a “special enrollment period” that gives them the right to buy exchange insurance at any time.

Individuals that are leaving a job or losing employer health insurance will be able to enroll in an Obamacare exchange plan before the next enrollment period, which begins November 15.

The alterations to COBRA notices may help to boost exchange participation even further. Now that the first open enrollment period has closed for most of the country, pro-Obamacare groups are shifting their advertising focus to those undergoing life changes that allow them to enroll anytime.

One such organization, Enroll America, plans to target young adults waiting in line at night clubs in the hopes that soon-to-be college graduates will sign up for coverage. (RELATED: Seeking youth enrollment, Obamacare group to hit the clubs)

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