WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following Republican blockage of the COBRA premium assistance subsidy, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced legislation that would reinstate the expired COBRA health care premium assistance for laid off workers.
"Though the economy is starting to rebound, Americans continue to lose their jobs in record numbers," said Senator Brown. "Now is not the time for more American workers to join the ranks of the uninsured. We need to make sure that families have access to affordable health care during these challenging economic times. That means ensuring recently laid off workers have the access to discounted COBRA premiums. I will continue to fight to extend this successful program."
"Extending the COBRA health care premium assistance has widespread support in the Senate," said Senator Casey. "Like unemployment insurance and aid for the states, this measure to help laid off workers pay for health insurance is being blocked. I will continue to look at all options to get this vital legislation passed."
The legislation introduced by Brown and Casey would extend the eligibility window for the COBRA subsidy for another six months. Sens. Brown and Casey introduced an amendment to attach COBRA premium assistance to tax extenders legislation which failed due to Republican opposition.
By introducing the Coverage Continuity Act of 2009, Brown successfully fought to ensure that the Recovery Act made health insurance more affordable for unemployed workers through the establishment of a subsidy for COBRA coverage. That subsidy, worth 65 percent of the premium, expires after 15 months for citizens who have been laid off within the last 20 months. Workers laid off after May 31 are not eligible for the subsidy, unless Congress passes an extension. The legislation introduced by Brown and Casey would extend the eligibility window for the COBRA subsidy for another six months.
COBRA coverage is extremely valuable to those facing a serious health problem or chronic condition. Pre-existing condition exclusions for adults are not prohibited in the individual market until January 2014, so, in the meantime, insurance companies are allowed to continue to discriminate against the sick or aged.