Key Issues Related to COBRA Subsidies

This brief analyzes data from the 2017 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a cross-sectional survey consisting of two-year longitudinal panels. The 2017 MEPS data set reflects data collected during both panel 21 (rounds 3, 4, and 5) and panel 22 (rounds 1, 2, and 3). The survey uses computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) software to interview 19,351 households gathering information on 31,880 people. For this analysis, we looked a subset of people ages 18 to 64. Statistics are weighted using the MEPS person weight. Individual enrollment in COBRA was determined using the MEPS Person Round Plan file. We calculated a point-in-time cobra enrollment at panel 21 round 3 and panel 22 round 1. The MEPS Person Round Plan file was merged on to the MEPS Full Year consolidated file, which contained enrollment data by source of coverage. Each source of insurance was subset to the months January, February, March, and April to coincide with the point when the COBRA question was collected. The different sources of insurance are not mutually exclusive, so a hierarchy was created as follows: COBRA, Medicaid, Medicare, ESI, Non Group, Uninsured. The Unemployment rate was calculated by using the following categories: people who could not find work, people who were unable to work because of a disability, people unemployed because of temporarily layoff, and people who were waiting to start a new job.

Data on premiums and deductibles for 2020 QHP Marketplace plans come from and KFF review of state rate filings. Average QHP premiums were calculated as the average of premiums for the second-lowest cost silver plan (the benchmark plan) in each county in 2020 for a 48-year-old non-smoking individual, and are weighted by 2019 enrollment. Average QHP plan deductibles only include plans offered in federally-facilitated and partnership exchanges. Because many Marketplace plans are offered in multiple rating areas within a state, to calculate average deductibles we reduced the number of plans so that each benefit package was counted only once for each state. Average deductibles are simple averages of the plans that are available and are not weighted by enrollment.

Unsubsidized premiums and deductibles for those with employer coverage are calculated as the average premiums (including both the employer and worker contributions) and average single-coverage deductible. Premium costs do not include a two percent administrative fee that enrollees may face. KFF conducted the annual Employer Health Benefits Survey between January and July of 2019. It included 2,012 randomly-selected, non-federal public and private firms with three or more employees, for more information see here.

Issue Brief

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