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COBRA subsidy for church plans?

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Guest Ohio

The new 65% COBRA premium subsidy for up to 9 months under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act applies to plans subject to COBRA provisions under ERISA, the Code, or the Public Health Act, and to "a State program that provides comparable continuation coverage." See section 3001(a)(10) of the Act.

But how does it apply to a nonelecting 414(e) church plan which is exempt from COBRA under ERISA, the Code, and the PHA? Church plans in Ohio are subject to the Ohio continuation coverage law but it only requires 6 months. (OH Rev Code 3923.38) Assume a church plan voluntarily provides 18 months of quasi-COBRA coverage although it is not required to. Can that church plan qualify for 9 months of reimbursement under ARRA when the Ohio law requires only 6 months of coverage?

The Chairman's mark of the ARRA notes that church plans and small plans are exempt from COBRA. It goes on to say: "The Chairman's mark provides assistance for coverage required under State law that requires continuation coverage comparable to the continuation coverage required under the Code's COBRA rules for group health plans not subject to those rules (e.g., a small employer plan) and includes continuation coverage requirements that apply to health plans maintained by the Federal government or a State government." But nothing about further requirements for church plans. See the Chairman's mark here:

http://readthestimulus.org/01-23-09_UI_Hea...ARRP_senate.txt

The intent probably was to subject all plans to the subsidy requirement but that's not exactly how it was drafted. Is it reasonably safe to take the position that state law requires at least 6 months of coverage but does not limit it, and therefore apply for 9 month reimbursements?

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