As part of the government's effort to combat the pitfalls of the recession, Congress in March 2009 passed a 65-percent government-funded subsidy for laid-off employees who signed up for a COBRA health insurance extension.

The program ran from September 2008 to May 2010, with 15 months of subsidies available for any employee who was "involuntarily terminated," a phrase that was interpreted fairly loosely. The last 15 months of the program come to an end this August.

Generally speaking, barring other triggering events, a COBRA subsidy is available for only 18 months, so these recipients will need to pay the full premium for three months once the subsidy ends, or drop their insurance altogether.

COBRA refers to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, which included language setting up the insurance continuation program, available to employees who leave a company for any reason and wish to continue their employer-based health insurance.