Laid-Off Workers Lament Conclusion Of COBRA SubsidyKaiser Health News, in a collaboration with USA Today: Recently laid-off workers, as well as people who received a subsidy for 15 months to help them afford to keep their former employer's health insurance, are lamenting the end of the popular program. "Deficit-conscious lawmakers have not renewed a subsidy that helped many jobless Americans afford health benefits. A longstanding federal law called COBRA requires employers to continue insurance for former employees, typically for 18 more months, if they pay the entire premium plus a two percent administrative fee. Last year, Congress approved a 65% COBRA premium subsidy, but it ended May 31. People who started on COBRA before May 31 can still get the aid. But those who had exhausted the 15-month subsidy, and the newly unemployed, aren't eligible." Indeed, there's also little chance that a deficit-weary Congress will renew the subsidy. "But with the economy still struggling and layoffs continuing, hundreds of thousands of Americans may face a tough decision: pay high COBRA premiums or drop coverage if they can't get cheaper individual policies" (Villegas and Galewitz, 8/18).
In the meantime, the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News reports that even some elected officials in Ohio are getting the COBRA subsidy. "Provided they meet federal criteria, 'any one of our elected officials who is not re-elected is eligible for COBRA,' said Jody Lombardo, office manager for the Ohio Insurance Services Agency, the COBRA specialist at the agency managing health coverage for Clearcreek [Township] and local governments throughout Ohio. Elected officials defeated during the time frame established by the law could qualify if their elected office was considered a full-time position, Lombardo said. To qualify for the full, 65-percent subsidy [people] can earn no more than $145,000 ($290,000 if filing jointly)" (Budd, 8/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.