Consumer groups are urging Congress to pass legislation to extend a health insurance subsidy program for laid-off workers through the middle of next year.
Groups press lawmakers on COBRA subsidy
Families USA said in a report that millions of unemployed Americans and their families need an extension on the COBRA subsidy. COBRA allows qualifying laid-off workers to retain their job-based health benefits, for up to 18 months. The subsidy, part of the federal economic stimulus law signed in February, gives the unemployed up to nine months of help paying for the coverage, in the form of a 65% subsidy of the total cost.
The subsidy lapses Dec. 1 for those who first signed up for it in March (Print subscription required), as the nine-month timeframe ends. Several million people are among those seeing this help run out starting this week, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. The federal government has not yet released numbers gauging the popularity of the subsidy program.
The average monthly COBRA premium without the subsidy, is $1,111, while a monthly unemployment check averages about $1,333. In nine states, the average COBRA premium without the subsidy exceeds the amount in a monthly unemployment check, according to Families USA.
“The subsidy has been a lifeline,” Pollack said. “That lifeline is now being withdrawn.”
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), is planning to include the continued COBRA subsidy in a jobs package to be taken up by the end of the month, a spokeswoman said. Senate Democratic members are also calling for passage of a continued COBRA subsidy by the end of the year.
What do you think? Post a comment on this article and share your opinion with other readers. Submit your comments to Modern Healthcare Online at [email protected]. Please be sure to include your hometown and state, along with your organization and title.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.