News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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COBRA Support Program extended with federal recovery funds
Laid off workers can receive monthly reimbursement to help continue health insurance coverage

(January 5, 2010) Seventy-four laid-off workers from Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties have taken advantage of the Northern Health Plan's COBRA Support Program. The program provides an extra subsidy of $50 per month to help unemployed people pay COBRA health insurance premiums in the eight-county region across the "tip of the mitt". Now, with a federal extending coverage from 9 to 15 months through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Northern Health Plan is extending payments for six more months and continuing enrollment in the program.

Employees who were involuntarily terminated through February 2010 are eligible to extend their health insurance coverage by paying 35% of the monthly premium for 15 months through the ARRA. The Northern Health Plan will assist them by reimbursing $50 per month for up to two household members.

"Paying out-of-pocket for even a relatively minor medical emergency is very expensive and can be devastating for uninsured families who are already struggling financially," said Bruce Miller, Executive Director for the Northern Health Plan. "The COBRA Support Program helps laid off workers keep health insurance benefits so their family members can continue to receive routine care and, if they become ill or injured, they'll be covered."

According to Linda Yaroch, Deputy Health Officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, applying for the $50 per month subsidy is as easy as completing a simple enrollment form and then sending a copy of the receipt documenting monthly COBRA payments to the Health Department.

"We urge everyone who is eligible for COBRA to enroll in the program so they can continue to get the healthcare services they need," she said.

People currently enrolled in the Northern Health Plan COBRA Support Program do not need to reapply; they will receive a letter soon explaining the program.

The Northern Health Plan is a consortium of health departments and hospitals dedicated to improving access to health care for low-income and uninsured residents of northern Lower Michigan. Members from Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties are the Health Department, Northern Michigan Regional Hospital, and Otsego Memorial Hospital.

TENCON, a similar program serving the counties of Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana, and Wexford is also offering a COBRA Support Program.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about the Northern Health Plan COBRA Support Program, visit or call the Health Department at 800-432-4121 during regular business hours.