Free Cobra Health Insurance Coverage:

How Laid-Off Workers Can Get Treatment

On Thursday 3/11/21, President Biden passed the American Rescue Plan, the latest relief package for COVID-19 which, among other things, can help Americans who have recently lost their employer health insurance pay for medical expenses. The way it works has to do with COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act).


Normally, if a person lost their job, had their hours reduced, or became too old to receive benefits from their parent’s medical insurance, they could sign up with Cobra. With Cobra, they would be eligible for their employer or parent’s health benefits for an additional 18 months. The catch used to be the price. Specifically, that cobra could cost up to 102% of a person’s normal insurance premiums. But the American Rescue Plan would make Cobra free until September 2021.

What If Cobra Becomes Free?  

Until now, Cobra charged high premiums to cover people’s lapsed health benefits. If Cobra became free then there would be no need to wait to postpone important appointments or delay getting care. For those needing high-quality care for conditions like Substance Abuse Disorder, this is even more beneficial.


Starting April 2021, you can qualify for free Cobra if:

  1. You had health insurance with your former employer
  2. Your employer’s health plan is still active. If the business shut down or discontinued its medical benefits, you will not be eligible for Cobra. 
  3. The company had 20 or more employees. Full-time employees count as one, part-time employees count as half. 
  4. You were let go, fired, or had your hours reduced. The reason for this does not have to be Covid-related.
  5. The reason for your termination, suspension, or hour reduction is not “gross misconduct” 
    • You are also not eligible if you left your job voluntarily. 

If you meet these five requirements, you are eligible for fully subsidized Cobra Coverage starting April 2021. However, according to the Department of Labor, if you get a new employee health plan before September 30 2021, you become ineligible for the no-cost-coverage. 

How To Sign Up for Free Cobra Insurance:

  1. Wait until April 2021, then contact your former employer’s health plan administrator or the company’s benefits manager. If you’re unsure who this is, contact Human Resources. Or reach out to your former insurance company. Ask them to send you a notice in the mail detailing your coverage.
  2. Once you receive the letter, elect to receive Cobra coverage within 60 days. Instructions for electing Cobra coverage will be detailed in the letter.

How To Pay Treatment Expenses Using No-Cost Cobra:

  1. Elect Cobra Coverage starting April 2021 (See above).
  2. Call a treatment center, and ask for verification of your health benefits (it’s a free service) to what expenses are covered.
  3. Arrange payment for any non-covered expenses.


According to the Department of Labor’s website, if you elect Cobra coverage within 60 days of your qualifying event (being terminated, laid off, getting reduced hours), then coverage begins immediately. 


No. In the past, there was an additional-optional cost to make coverage retroactive, which would subsidize any health care costs between your qualifying event and electing cobra. This option is not available for no-cost coverage.  


According to the relief bill, all your premiums for Cobra, which would ordinarily be up to 100% of your employer-provided-healthcare premiums, are fully covered. However, you will still need to pay your coinsurance and copay for medical visits. 

What Is Free:

  • All Costs for Premiums.

You Pay:

  • Copay, coinsurance, or costs not covered by your former employer’s plan.

What If I Already Turned Down Cobra?

You are still eligible. Reach out to your former employer or former health insurance provider to begin the process of electing no-cost cobra coverage. 

How Do I Begin Recovery?

You are still eligible. Reach out to your former employer or former health insurance provider to begin the process of electing no-cost cobra coverage. 

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Tree House Recovery

A Better Way To Treat Addiction: 

Tree House Recovery has helped many people. Our program is an approach that offers more than talk-therapy. We focus on long-term goals and lifestyle habits so you get healthy and stay sober.  

Optimize your life:

  • PHYSICAL FITNESS: Get stronger. Achieve the best physical shape of your life and learn to use movement to change brain chemistry and mood. 
  • MENTAL FITNESS: Build a better perspective. Feel happier and healthier than you did before addiction.   
  • SOCIAL FITNESS: Connect. Form a tight-knit band of brothers with your treatment peers to rely on for fun or support after treatment. 

Types of Rehab that Cobra May Cover:

Cobra allows you to use your former employer’s health care policy to help pay for treatment expenses. This can include:

Detox: Helps you deal with physical withdrawal symptoms in a safe medically supervised space.

Partial Hospitalization Program: Programming to help treat the cause and effects of addiction. At Tree House, this means 5-6 hours of treatment for five days a week, including:

  • 1 on 1 counseling 
  • Writing therapy for trauma resolution 
  • Exercises specifically chose to help curb cravings
  • Group counseling to connect you with support resources and community activities
  • Spartan races, mud runs, or other fun events that prove how far you’ve come.
  • Team-building exercises that build sober friendships after rehab

Intensive Outpatient: Helps cement what you learned in PHP until it becomes second nature. IOP is 3-5 hours per day, 5 days per week. 

Standard Outpatient: Weekly evening therapy sessions meant for mild addiction problems or recent rehab graduates.