A jar of money wrapped in a stethoscope sits on top of a stack of cash.

Free COBRA Premiums End Sept. 30 and your Health Insurance Options Moving Forward

COBRA is a federal law that allows eligible workers to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage after experiencing a “qualifying event,” such as losing their jobs. As discussed in our previous blog, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included a program to pay 100% of COBRA premiums for people who lost their job, or had their hours reduced and no longer qualified for employer-sponsored health insurance.

The free COBRA premiums began April 1, 2021, and end September 30, 2021. For more information on the free COBRA premiums, you can review our prior blog post.

What if I want to keep COBRA?

While COBRA allows for a continuation of the same health policy that you had while working, the cost of COBRA premiums can be expensive. Once the free COBRA premiums end, people will need to pay the full cost of the premium to keep COBRA.

If you have been receiving free COBRA, you should receive notice from your former employer that the free premium is ending. The notice will state your COBRA premium, the monthly cost for you to keep COBRA. Typically, there is an 18-month limit to COBRA coverage. For more information about COBRA, read our Quick Guide to COBRA.

What if I am unable to pay the COBRA premium?

Health Insurance Marketplaces

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) created Health Insurance Marketplaces that allow people to shop for health insurance options from private insurance companies. There are benefits to Marketplace plans. The Marketplace plans are standardized by federal law and you may be eligible financial assistance based on income level to help lower the cost of the plan. For more information on Health Insurance Marketplaces, read our Quick Guide to Health Insurance Marketplaces.

With free COBRA ending, there is a new special enrollment period (SEP). Under this SEP, people who received free COBRA are eligible to purchase Marketplace plans to cover the rest of 2021. Many state Marketplaces are operated by the federal government and you can view plans at HealthCare.gov. For State-run Marketplaces, visit healthcare.gov/marketplace-in-your-state.

Picking a health insurance plan can be overwhelming. For more information on how to choose a plan, watch our animated video Picking a Health Insurance Plan. To compare health insurance options, you can use our Health Insurance Comparison Worksheet.


Medicaid eligibility varies by state. If you live in a state with expanded Medicaid, you may qualify for Medicaid coverage if your household income is up to 138% of the federal poverty level. For more information on states with expanded Medicaid, visit our Quick Guide to States Expanding Medicaid.

If you live in a state without expanded Medicaid, you will need to demonstrate more than just a low-income level. For more information on your state’s Medicaid requirements, visit medicaid.gov.

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

If you have started a new job, you can speak with human resources to determine if you can get employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. However, companies set their own enrollment periods and you may have missed the opportunity to enroll for coverage in 2021.

About Triage Cancer

Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, advocates, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through eventsmaterials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis. For more information on health insurance options and how to pick a plan that works for you, visit triagecancer.org/healthinsurance.

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