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
Workers laid off through March 31st can receive monthly reimbursement
to help continue health insurance coverage

(March 15, 2010) COBRA benefits will be extended for adults involuntarily separated from employment by March 31, 2010, by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA). By enrolling in the program, unemployed people can keep their health insurance coverage by paying 35% of the premium. To further assist people to maintain their health benefits, Northern Health Plan's COBRA Support Program provides an extra subsidy of $50 per month for up to 15 months, for up to two unemployed adults per household.

"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 extended benefits.

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.