The Senate was expected to vote on a bill that would provide relief to both physicians and unemployed workers—at least through February 2010. If approved, laid-off workers would soon get an extension on a federal subsidy for health benefits. The House has approved the subsidy extension for the COBRA program, which was tucked into the $636.3 billion Defense appropriations bill. The provision extends from nine to 15 months the subsidy whereby workers only pay 35% of the cost of COBRA coverage. COBRA is a program that allows workers to continue the health insurance offered by their former employers for up to 18 months after they’ve lost their jobs, provided they pay the full amount of the premiums. The 65% federal subsidy was included in the federal stimulus law, enacted in February, but was only available for a maximum of nine months, up until Dec. 31. That meant that the unemployed who started receiving the subsidy in March saw it lapse on Dec. 1. About 7 million people have taken the premium subsidy, according to the Defense appropriations bill summary. The same bill includes a short-term delay to the impending cuts to Medicare physician reimbursement.
Late News: Senate vote expected on Defense/COBRA bill
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