Federal COBRA Insurance Subsidies Set To Expire

Insurance continuation program for laid-off workers could jump in cost

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

President Barack Obama's stimulus plan cut the price tag for COBRA, the federal program that allows workers to keep their healthcare benefits for 18 months after they leave a job. Under the bill, laid-off workers pay only 35% of the actual cost of COBRA benefits. That provision expires this month, meaning many unemployed workers will face suddenly higher healthcare premiums. We speak with Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer for WageWorks, a company that administers COBRA and other benefits programs. We also speak with Cheryl Fish-Parcham, deputy director of health policy at Families USA.

Guests:

Jody Dietel and Cheryl Fish-Parchman

Contributors:

Clancy Nolan

Comments [4]

name withheld

As previously stated, nine months of subsidized coverage. This subsidy was never meant as a long-term fix, which was clearly stated at the outset. In other words, not an occasion for outrage.

Dec. 03 2009 11:45 AM
cheadlee

Actually, the extension of COBRA coverage that was included in the stimulus bill is no longer in effect. That means that for many people who have had COBRA benefits for some months, their benefits will begin to expire today.

http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/expiration-of-cobra-subsidy.pdf

Dec. 02 2009 07:31 PM
name withheld

According to the Dept of Labor website, "The premium reduction applies to periods of health coverage beginning on or after February 17, 2009 and lasts for up to nine months for those eligible for COBRA during the period beginning September 1, 2008 and ending December 31, 2009 due to an involuntary termination of employment that occurred during that period." This is not exactly the same as "the provision expires this month, meaning many unemployed workers will face suddenly higher healthcare premiums," of "over 300%" as I heard John announce as I was waking up the other day. Please refrain from engaging in shock journalism. When my husband and I paid for our daughter's COBRA a few years ago, after she became ineligible for coverage under his employer-subsidized family plan, the only premium option available to us was "exorbitant." Any assistance is better than none,and those who currently qualify for the COBRA subsidy may continue well into 2010

Dec. 02 2009 04:59 PM
Richard Johnston

The urgency relates not only to affordability of COBRA coverage, it relates to simple availability. Many long-term-unemployed are going to start exhausting the 18 months' coverage typically available to them under COBRA. The government needs to act urgently to extend that period to 36 or 48 months, to bridge the gap to universal health coverage. Otherwise we will see more Americans not covered by health insurance, and that's in nobody's interest.

Dec. 02 2009 08:09 AM

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