Democrats Moving To Extend COBRA Subsidy Expansion Through End Of Year
Tucked into a $190 billion jobs and tax bill the House plans to take up next week is an extension of the subsidy to help laid-off workers pay for COBRA health insurance benefits.
Kaiser Health News reports that it would be the fifth time Congress has extended the subsidy since February 2009 as high unemployment continues. "COBRA is the federal program that allows laid-off workers to stay on their employer's health insurance, usually for as long as 18 months. But the former employee has to pay all the costs, something that is often cost-prohibitive. The COBRA benefits subsidy pays 65 percent of the insurance premium costs for laid-off workers for 15 months." The cost of extending the benefit, which would expire May 31, would be $7.8 billion (Villegas, 5/20).
Newsday: The bill also extends other unemployment benefit payments for up to 99 weeks in many states as well as popular tax cuts and a three-year fix to the payment schedule for doctors who treat Medicare patients (Morris, 5/20).
The Associated Press: "'Provisions in this legislation will help companies and state and local governments spur job growth while also providing critical tax relief and economic assistance to American families who were hit hard by the recession,' said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Levin unveiled an outline of the bill along with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee" (Ohlemacher, 5/20).
Politico: "Short-term extensions could be adopted - as they have so often in the past. But to the extent that Republicans have made even these a time-consuming battle, Democrats see the current bill as their last, best chance to patch the safety net and clear the landscape through November" The Memorial Day recess "is a week away" (Rogers, 5/21).
The Wall Street Journal: "Another, less noticed change would limit the ability of doctors, lawyers and other professionals to avoid employment taxes by paying themselves through small-business corporations (such as S-corporations) that operate somewhat like partnerships. That provision would raise almost $10 billion over the next decade" (McKinnon and Vaughan, 5/20).