KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Passes Extension Of COBRA And Other Unemployment Benefits

The Hill: Six Senate Republicans joined most Democrats to approve a package of unemployment aid and tax provisions. The bill, which its backers say is "a necessary step during the economic recovery," passed on a 62-36 vote. "The bulk of the bill's cost -- about $80 billion -- goes toward prolonging increased levels of federal unemployment aid and COBRA healthcare benefits for the jobless through the end of December." The measure's remaining cost would extend "the current rate of Medicare payments to doctors, which is scheduled to see a 21 percent rate cut" as well as a number of tax breaks.

Some differences, such as revenue raisers, exist between the House and Senate versions of this legislation. The House must now take up the bill and "Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said it's "an open question" whether House members will force a conference to resolve differences between the Senate and House" (Alarkon, 3/10).

Bloomberg: "The bill approved today would extend until Dec. 31 expiring provisions in the law that offer as many as 99 weeks of unemployment checks, along with a 65 percent subsidy to help buy health insurance through the COBRA program" (Faler, 3/10).

CNNMoney: The measure "would also temporarily halt a 21% reduction in Medicare physician reimbursement rates. And it would send another $25 billion to the states to help them fund their Medicaid programs for another six months" (Luhby, 3/10).

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