KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Unemployment Will Run Out For 1.3 Million As GOP Again Blocks Jobless Bill

The Associated Press: Slightly more than 1.3 million people won't get unemployment benefits reinstated before Congress goes on its July 4th recess and an "additional 200,000 people who have been without a job for at least six months stand to lose their benefits each week, unless Congress acts."

Republicans for the third time in three weeks filibustered the bill that would provide more unemployment checks to people who have been laid off. "The House is slated to vote on a similar measure Thursday, though the Senate's action renders the vote a futile gesture as Congress prepares to depart Washington for its holiday recess." And, even as Democrats were "[u]nable to deliver more stimulus spending for President Barack Obama, [they] had hoped to at least restore the jobless benefits. Obama has urged lawmakers to spend about $50 billion to help states pay for Medicaid programs and to avoid teacher layoffs, but Democrats in Congress have been unable to come up with the votes" (Ohlemacher, 7/1).

In the meantime, Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, are pushing a new bill, with a new way to pay for it, to extend a 65 percent health insurance subsidy that helps the laid off afford to keep their former employer's health insurance, known as COBRA. The Hill reports that the senators hope "their COBRA subsidy bill - which would pay for itself with more than $1 billion to spare [it'd cost $4.1 billion] - can win support from the budget hawks who have slowed the upper chamber to a crawl over deficit spending concerns." The subsidy ran out June 1, and people laid off after that date haven't been eligible for the subsidy "leaving more than 140,000 families ineligible each month, according to estimates from the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. … The Casey/Brown proposal would extend the enrollment deadline through November, retroactive to June 1. Those entering the program over that span would be eligible to receive six months of federal help." The lawmakers hope to pay for the program by eliminating a tax break on a specific type of asset transfer called a short-term grantor retained annuity trust (Lillis, 6/30).

The Huffington Post: "'Extending the COBRA health care premium assistance has widespread support in the Senate,' Casey said in a statement. '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'" (Graves, 6/30). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.