KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Poised For Today’s COBRA Subsidy Extension Vote

"The Senate will vote at 5:30 on Monday afternoon on a measure to extend several jobless aid programs that expired on April 5 after Congress adjourned for its Easter break," The Huffington Post reports (Delaney, 4/12).

Congressional Quarterly: A 65 percent subsidy that helped laid-off Americans pay for their COBRA health insurance premiums expired March 31, just before the Congressional recess. Now, one of the first orders of business is voting on legislation that would extend that subsidy. "With 15 million Americans unemployed, some advocates for the jobless say Congress should not only be extending the COBRA subsidies but expanding them - either with more-generous subsidies or by changing the law to make more people eligible" (Benson, 4/12).

Politico: "Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) were confident Monday morning that the temporary extension – which also deals with COBRA health care benefits - would get the 60 votes needed to move forward with debate. 'Well, we certainly want to pass the year-long [unemployment] extension. It passed the house. It passed the Senate,' Schumer said. '[But] it was a more complicated issue than that. ... We ought to put the blame where it belongs, which is with the dilatory behavior on the other side of the aisle.'" Stabenow said, "This should not have been a hard thing to do. ... This should be something that everybody agrees with and it should be able to be done quickly. But we're fighting those on the other side who believe that we shouldn't pass this or that people don't want to work, which frankly, I find offensive" (Shiner, 4/12).

The Washington Post: While jobless benefits are traditionally seen as having bipartisan backing, this extension has proved more partisan. "Each party has been eager to blame the other for the cutoff. … Democrats point out that they easily moved an extension through the House and were primed to do the same in the Senate before Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), stood in the way. … Republicans respond that they're not opposed to extending unemployment benefits but want to offset the $9 billion cost with spending cuts elsewhere" (Pershing, 4/12).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: "For Republicans, the theme of this fight is pretty simple. If you can't find $9.2 billion to pay for an extra month of benefits in a budget that's well over $3 trillion, then you've got quite a problem with spending." Democrats charge that "Republicans continue to treat the American people as expendable political pawns," according to a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid."

"The fight comes as 33 different states have now run out of unemployment benefits money, and are borrowing cash from the feds to make up the difference" (Dupree, 4/12).

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