COBRA Health Insurance Temporarily Extended Through April
Thursday brought an extension to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, better known as COBRA health insurance plan. The House of Representatives voted for a short-term extension that would make COBRA benefits available to the unemployed until April 5, 2010.
COBRA was first enacted in 1986 as part of an effort to extend health insurance coverage to those who were fired or laid off. The plan allows workers who are out of a job to remain under their employer’s health insurance plan for as long as 18 months following termination.
The COBRA and unemployment benefits programs would have expired on Monday if the voice approved vote didn’t pass. The bill heads to the Senate next. In addition to extending COBRA –the second such extension – the bill would extend health care subsidies and a 21 percent cut in physician’s reimbursements.
The current version of COBRA allows fired workers health care coverage provided that they pay 65 percent of the plan. Workers fired between 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 are eligible for COBRA. Under COBRA, the average family pays out almost $400 a month for health insurance and health benefits. Without COBRA, the cost is over a $1,000 a month.
The extension is only a temporary one and Senator Harry Reid wants to push for a longer extension. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the approved extension would cost approximately $6.8 billion this year alone. Reid’s planned extension through December would cost $100 billion.
The Obama administration began talks about health care reform Thursday. Calling it a health care summit, the agenda is a heated one. Republicans and Democrats have many obstacles to overcome before any real change is to come.
COBRA is just one of the issues that face debate. The cost of individual health insurance plans is also rising at ridiculous rates and many are dropping coverage leaving providers in a state of disarray. Should a plan come into agreement, the cost will be another point of conflict. How all the players will work out an amenable bill should be interesting.