[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 238 (Monday, December 12, 2011)]
[Pages 77263-77264]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-31824]



Proposed Information Collection Request (ICR) for the Impact of 
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) COBRA Subsidy Survey; 
Comment Request

AGENCY: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Labor.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Department of Labor (DOL or the Department), as part of 
its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, 
conducts a preclearance consultation program to provide the general 
public and Federal agencies with an opportunity to comment on proposed 
and/or continuing collections of information in accordance with the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) [44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)]. This 
program helps to ensure that required data can be provided in the 
desired format, reporting burden (time and financial resources) is 
minimized, collection instruments are clearly understood, and the 
impact of collection requirements on respondents can be properly 
assessed. The Department notes that a Federal agency cannot conduct or 
sponsor a collection of information unless it is approved by the Office 
of Management and Budget (OMB) under the PRA and the related materials 
display a currently valid OMB control number. Also, notwithstanding any 
other provisions of law, no person shall be subject to penalty for 
failing to comply with a collection of information if the related 
materials do not display a currently valid OMB control number. See 5 
CFR 1320.5(a) and 1320.6. A copy of the proposed ICR can be obtained by 
contacting the office listed below in the addresses section of this 
notice or by accessing http://www.doleta.gov/OMBCN/OMBControlNumber.cfm.

DATES: Written comments must be received by the office listed in the 
addresses section below on or before February 10, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Celeste Richie, U.S. Department of Labor, 
Chief Evaluation Office, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, 
200 Constitution Avenue NW., Frances Perkins Bldg., Room S-2316, 
Washington, DC 20210, telephone number (202) 693-5076 (this is not a 
toll-free number). Email address is [email protected] and fax 
number is (202) 693-5960.

    1. Background: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act 
(COBRA) of 1985 gave some employees the ability to continue employer-
sponsored health coverage for a limited time after they left 
employment. COBRA required that private employers with 20 or more 
employees offer continued health coverage to workers who were enrolled 
in the employer's health plan and lost coverage as a result of 
termination of employment or a reduction in work hours for reasons 
other than gross misconduct. It also ensured a continued offer of 
coverage to spouses and dependent children who otherwise might lose 
coverage because (1) Of a covered worker's job loss, death, a divorce 
or legal separation, or eligibility for Medicare; or (2) they ceased to 
be a dependent under the applicable plan provisions (for example, a 
child who ages out of eligibility).\1\ Qualified employees and 
dependents may elect COBRA coverage any time within 60 days of a 
qualifying event and continue it for up to 18 months.\2\ Because COBRA 
does not require employers to contribute toward the cost of continued 
coverage, recipients generally must pay the full health insurance 
premium plus a 2 percent administrative fee. Although Federal COBRA 
coverage does not apply to private companies with fewer than 20 
employees, many states have established continuation-of-coverage laws 
(sometimes called mini-COBRA) that extend all or some of COBRA's 
provisions to smaller firms. Separate Federal laws offer continuation 
rights comparable to COBRA to Federal civilian and military employees. 
One provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 
2009 was intended to help make COBRA coverage more affordable to 
involuntarily unemployed workers. It required employers to pay 65 
percent of the COBRA premium (or comparable state continuation 
coverage) for qualified workers and dependents for up to nine months. 
The employers subsequently received a credit of that amount against 
their Federal payroll taxes. Qualified workers and dependents were 
eligible to receive ARRA subsidies for COBRA if the worker (1) 
Experienced an involuntary termination of employment between September 
1, 2008, and December 31, 2009 (later extended to May 31, 2010); and 
(2) was not eligible for group health coverage (such as through the 
plan of a spouse or new employer) or Medicare. Workers also had to have 
an adjusted gross income under $125,000 (filing singly) or $250,000 
(filing jointly), with more modest subsidies available for incomes 
between $125,000 and $145,000 or between $250,000 and $290,000, 
respectively. Pursuant to this legislation, many people eligible for 
COBRA (or mini-COBRA) coverage might be (or might have been) eligible 
to pay a reduced premium for COBRA coverage for up to 15 months. Little 
is known about the number and characteristics of workers and dependents 
who are eligible for COBRA coverage or about the workers that used the 
subsidy to continue coverage. The Chief Evaluation office in the Office 
of the Assistant Secretary for Policy (CEO) in the U.S. Department of 
Labor (DOL) is seeking to fill this knowledge gap. Specifically, CEO 
would like a reliable estimate of the share of the eligible population 
that enrolled in ARRA-subsidized COBRA coverage, the number of 
dependents that enrolled, the duration of ARRA-subsidized enrollment, 
and how the outcomes of workers would have differed without subsidy. By 
sponsoring this study, CEO also offers the opportunity to better 
understand what factors drive COBRA enrollment, and to learn about 
differences in the experiences of those who were eligible for the 
subsidy and those ineligible for the subsidy. Mathematica has been 
contracted to conduct this evaluation on behalf of DOL's CEO. The 
evaluation will estimate the impact of the subsidy's availability on 
COBRA insurance take-up and explore factors correlated with take-up and 
reasons why individuals choose to enroll or not to enroll in COBRA. 
Specifically, the study will address the following research questions 
using administrative claims data and a one-time survey of unemployment

[[Page 77264]]

insurance recipients. The research questions are:

    \1\ In general, qualified employees, spouses, and dependent 
children must have been covered by the health plan the day preceding 
the qualifying event.
    \2\ Under certain circumstances, qualified dependents may elect 
COBRA coverage for up to 36 months or longer from the first 
qualifying event.

    a. What are the characteristics of COBRA- and subsidy-eligible 
individuals? Documenting the extent of COBRA- and subsidy-eligibility 
and the characteristics of subsidy-eligible and ineligible individuals 
will provide a picture of what types of individuals have the potential 
to benefit from the subsidy. As with any program, the subsidy may have 
failed to reach some of the intended recipients or it may have 
benefited some individuals who did not need these benefits as much as 
others. Documenting such unintended consequences may suggest ways that 
the programs similar to the subsidy could be targeted more efficiently. 
In addition, understanding who is eligible for the subsidy will provide 
a context for interpreting the results of the impact analysis of the 
effectiveness of the subsidy in increasing take-up of COBRA, described 
    b. What are the characteristics of COBRA enrollees? By documenting 
the characteristics of individuals who enroll or choose not to enroll 
in COBRA, we can identify the most important predictors of take-up. As 
with understanding the characteristics of COBRA- and subsidy-eligible 
individuals, the characteristics of COBRA enrollees and non-enrollees 
will help identify whether COBRA and the subsidy are benefitting the 
intended recipients. Identifying characteristics that are correlated to 
take-up may also provide suggestive evidence on why individuals chose 
to enroll or not to enroll in COBRA, and how these compare with 
individuals' self-reported reasons for their choices. Such analyses may 
provide information that could help policymakers adjust program 
elements to increase take-up rates.
    c. What is the impact of the subsidy on COBRA take-up and other 
outcomes? In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the policy, we must 
estimate its impact, or how much COBRA take-up rates and other outcomes 
changed because of the policy. This analysis will provide policymakers 
with a sense of whether the subsidy had the intended effects on the 
main outcome of interest which is COBRA coverage, as well as whether it 
affected other related outcomes of interest. The subgroup analyses will 
provide insights on whether the subsidies had similar effects on 
various groups of workers, or whether it benefited some groups more 
than others. These types of estimates may be particularly useful in 
evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the subsidy.
    2. Desired Focus of Comments: Currently, the Department of Labor is 
soliciting comments concerning the above data collection. Comments are 
requested which:
    a. Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is 
necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, 
including whether the information will have practical utility;
    b. Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of 
the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the 
methodology and assumptions used;
    c. Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to 
be collected; and
    d. Minimize the burden of the information collection on those who 
are to respond, including the use of appropriate automated, electronic, 
mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms 
of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submissions of 
    Agency: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy.
    Type of Review: New Collection.
    Title of Collection: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act COBRA 
Subsidy Survey.
    OMB Number: XXXX-XXXX.
    Affected Public: Unemployment insurance recipients who became 
unemployed between February 17, 2009 and March 31, 2011 across 20 
    Cite/Reference/Form/etc: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 

                                             UI recipients
                                    Screeners          Full interviews
Number of Respondents.......         22,000-26,000                 5,800
Responses per Respondent....                     1                     1
Minutes per Response........                     2                    45
Total Respondent Burden                    733-867                 4,350
    Total Burden Cost.......       $10,555-$12,485               $62,640

    The total burden cost represents an estimated two minutes to 
complete the screener and 45 minutes to complete the full interview 
multiplied by the number of respondents, using an estimated average 
hourly wage of $14.40 per hour. Comments submitted in response to this 
request will be summarized and/or included in the request for Office of 
Management and Budget approval; they will also become a matter of 
public record.
    Comments submitted in response to this request will be summarized 
and/or included in the request for OMB approval; they will also become 
a matter of public record.

    Signed: At Washington, DC, this 6th day of December 2011.
William E. Spriggs,
Assistant Secretary, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy.
[FR Doc. 2011-31824 Filed 12-9-11; 8:45 am]