You were laid off from your job. You’re already having difficulty making ends meet. And now the nine-month federal subsidy that was part of the stimulus package is expiring, for you and millions of other Americans.
What should you do?
First, don’t panic. Second, try to find a way to pay the higher cost for your benefits for a month or two while we wait to see what Congress does to extend them. And third, if your benefits haven’t expired yet, see your doctors, get your prescriptions written, and plan for the hiatus in the best way you can.
COBRA is short for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, a mouthful of vowels and consonants that help jobless Americans keep their health benefits while they aren’t working. In February, when Congress passed President Obama’s economic stimulus package, the federal subsidy was included to help people pay for the benefit. But that subsidy started expiring this month. And people are seeing their cost rise astronomically while waiting to see if Congress extends the subsidy.
"For millions of laid-off workers and their families, the federal COBRA subsidies have been a health-coverage lifeline," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a consumer health advocacy group, told the Washington Post.
More from that story:
“Legislation to extend the subsidy has been introduced in both the House and the Senate. The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), would extend the maximum subsidy from nine months to 15 months. It would also expand eligibility to people who are involuntarily terminated through June 30, 2010, rather than the current cut-off of Dec. 31. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) also want to extend the subsidy to 15 months, plus increase the federal share from 65 percent to 75 percent.
“Just before Thanksgiving, Brown and Casey, along with Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), sent a letter to the Senate leadership urging an extension of the COBRA subsidy.