KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

COBRA Subsidy Extension Out Of Revised Senate Jobs Bill

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is rewriting a jobs bill after Democrats complained of too many concessions to Republicans," The Hill reports. Unlike the bill unveiled hours earlier by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., Reid's measure "does not extend unemployment and COBRA benefits that many in both parties want." Some Democrats are concerned by the change. "Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said the jobs bill should include a yearlong extension of unemployment insurance benefits. Harkin noted the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the impact of extending unemployment insurance would create more jobs then providing tax credits to employers who hire new workers." In addition, "Some Democrats and labor officials are also pressing Reid to include federal Medicaid assistance to states" (Bolton, 2/11).

The Washington Post: "Among the provisions that Reid delayed, and that are now expected to move as a separate bill, is the renewal of several expiring business tax credits ... Unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits would be extended by three months, and doctors would receive a seven-month delay in a scheduled rate cut for Medicare patients.  The Post adds that "[a]ll the fast-tracked provisions have bipartisan support, but GOP senators were caught off-guard by Reid's bifurcated strategy, announced just as Republicans were releasing statements in praise of the larger bill... As of Thursday night, it remained unclear whether Reid's maneuver would cost some GOP votes on either of the two bills" (Murray and Pershing, 2/12).

CongressDaily: "Senate Minority Whip Kyl Thursday afternoon indicated Republicans would support the draft Finance bill, just as Reid was presenting the smaller bill to Democrats. But Minority Leader McConnell later declined to endorse the Finance draft, calling it "a work in progress" that is "gonna be hashed out over the next few weeks" (Goode and Friedman, 2/12).

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