COBRA Subsidy Expires Thanks to Republican Opposition
On Sunday eligibility for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) expired leaving many out of work Americans without health insurance benefits. A 30-day extension of the subsidy was put on the Senate floor last Thursday and Friday, however efforts by Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky have held up any progress.
Senator Bunning is set to retire at the end of the year. In a one-man filibuster, Bunning spelled out his argument as an attack against irresponsible spending, saying “I don’t think it’s fair to do what you are proposing to do…and I’m going to object every time.” Bunning blocked the $10 billion bill under the pretense that fiscal spending remains out of hand.
The bill to extend COBRA affects thousands of unemployed Americans. The bill is part of the Recovery Act put in place last year to ease the blow of the recession. The subsidy provided funding to cover 65 percent of COBRA premiums for unemployed Americans.
The expiration of the COBRA subsidy means that by the end of the week, 400,000 Americans will be out of benefits, and 100,000 may be forced to reapply for benefits, costing them a wait of 13 weeks to regain benefits.
Senator Bunning’s actions have leery Republicans distancing themselves from the opposition. Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher, hold icy relations with Republican leaders whom he thinks attempted to hold back his attempts at re-election.
Senators are now looking to pass a even heftier bill that would cost over $145 billion and extend COBRA benefits until the end of the year. A vote is expected to take place on Friday. Senator Bunning is expected to maintain his opposition to the deficit created by health care coverage spending.
Efforts to resurrect the bill began Monday. The bill would also prolong many tax breaks and stopped significant cuts to payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.