COBRA Benefits In Danger Of Expiring As Lawmakers Fight Over Cost
Some unemployment benefits will likely soon expire as lawmakers fight over the cost of legislation that would extend benefits such as health insurance coverage under COBRA.
The Washington Post: "Last week, the House approved a $9 billion measure containing one-month extensions of unemployment insurance, COBRA health benefits and federal flood insurance. Senate Democrats hoped to have their chamber approve the same bill Thursday. But Republicans refused, complaining that the bill is not offset with spending cuts elsewhere." Negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell didn't yield results as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposed an idea to extend the benefits for one or two weeks, and to pay for it. "As a result, the House and Senate will leave town without further action. COBRA and flood insurance will expire March 30, and unemployment benefits will expire April 5. The Senate will return to session April 12." A spokesman for Reid said the benefits will be the first piece of business the Senate considers when it returns (Pershing, 3/26).
The Hill: Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., opposed the legislation the House passed "because its cost - $9.2 billion - wasn't offset and would increase the $12.7 trillion national debt. Democrats are considering passing an extension that could be applied retroactively when they return April 12, according to Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.)." Democrats and Republicans continued trading barbs Thursday about who was standing in the way of some Americans' benefits (Alarkon and Bolton, 3/25).
Politico: "Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said both Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed to approve a fully paid-for one week extension of the benefits, but the House Democrats rejected that offer. 'When a Democrat Senate spoke with a Democrat House, the deal was terminated,'" he said. But, "other Democrats in the Senate were quick to point the finger at the other side of the aisle, saying that the GOP was being insensitive [to] the jobless by insisting that the bill be paid for through the economic stimulus package, which is supposed to create jobs" (Raju, 3/25).
Investopedia/San Francisco Chronicle has a rundown of what COBRA is, what it provides and what could happen if coverage for laid-off workers lapses. In addition, it reports that the Senate has passed a COBRA extension bill, but it is different from the House version in that it is paid for and is awaiting action from the House. "On March 10, 2010, the Senate passed The American Workers, State and Business Relief Act (H.R. 4213). It extends COBRA benefits through the end of the year. The bill has a price tag of approximately $190 billion. It is now up for consideration in the House of Representatives, for differences to be resolved before the bill is signed by the President. Inevitably, the extensions will come to an end. However, the latest extension will provide more affordable coverage for Americans who may have otherwise been without insurance. For those with benefits set to expire at the end of 2010, at least there is more time to explore future options for employment and insurance coverage" (Silver, 3/25).