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Subsidized COBRA


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Employer has an existing severance pay plan covering all employees for both involuntary and voluntary separation from service. Plan does not qualify for 2 /2 separation pay plan exception because it pays on voluntary termination as well as involuntary.

Lump sum severance benefit is service-based and terms comply with 409A. Plan also provides that employer will pay COBRA premiums (again for ALL employees) for the period used to determine severance (and this is always shorter than COBRA continuation period).

They now want to eliminate the health coverage continuation premiums and instead pay an additional lump sum benefit at the same time as the existing lump sum benefit. Not trying to get out of paying employees, but want to make it easier to administer and they envision that the company may stop offering health insurance altogether as it winds down operations.

The medical coverage should be exempt from 409A - meaning it isn't deferred compensation because it is a nontaxable benefit (or in the alternative, qualifies under the Medical benefits exception for separation pay plans that limit reimbursements to the COBRA continuation period.

So I am thinking that eliminating this benefit and replacing it with a lump sum benefit would not be a substitution of deferred compensation that would result in an acceleration because it wasn't deferred compensation in the first place.

Any one see any problems with this approach?

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