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COBRA benefits subsidy expiring? Don’t panic. What to do while waiting on Congress

 
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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.

Add a Comment10 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Senate passed it TOO! COBRA will be extended!!! What a blessing!! ;)

December 20, 2009 - 2:48am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

AMEN!

December 21, 2009 - 9:44am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

CONGRESS JUST PASSED THE BILL TO EXTEND COBRA SUBSIDY!!!
THANK YOU GOD!
http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20091216/NEWS/912169994

December 16, 2009 - 2:37pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Related to mention that in California, the cobra can be extended to 36 months,
its not true unless your plan is a certain type of plan (the term might be self funded).
for example, usually kaiser plans are those that can be extended to 36 months
but others like blue cross, for example, cannot. Contact your employer to find out for sure.

December 15, 2009 - 10:27am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I have lost all faith in Obama, the U.S Congress and Senate. Health care would be a priority to persons in those jobs if they did not have coverage. My husband was laid off last week, 2 weeks before Christmas with two weeks sevenerance. COBRA would cost $1130 a month. WTF. We have a special needs child who needs therepy. But the insensetive former employer is taking double benefits from my husbannds last check to cover us through Jan. if ARRA (help with COBRA payments) is not approved for 2010, I feel that every Senetor, Congressman, and or the President should be striped of medical insurance. Afterall, don't the tax payers cover their insurance. MY TAX DOLLARS SHOULD NOT PAY FOR GOVERMENT EMPLOYEE HEALTH CARE.

December 14, 2009 - 7:52pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

CONGRESS JUST PASSED THE BILL TO EXTEND COBRA SUBSIDY!!!
THANK YOU GOD!
http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20091216/NEWS/912169994

December 16, 2009 - 3:04pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

It's infuriating this is taking so long. Why is health care supposedly a priority yet we have no money for this? Seems we had plenty of money to fund cash for clunkers or to send more troops overseas. Where are our priorities?

December 14, 2009 - 7:01pm

Those who lost their jobs prior to the September 1, 2008 eligibility cut-off date never received any assistance with their COBRA premiums. Many if not most of those same people are not even eligible for COBRA now because their 18 months of coverage has expired. Even those who were lucky enough to receive the subsidy in the first place are starting to loose their coverage and are joining the estimated 50 million uninsured.

According to a Harvard study, uninsured adults are 80% more likely to die from a traumatic injury than those who have insurance. Currently their are two bills working their way through congress that may offer some relief. For more information on these bills and other options to COBRA, please see our website at http://cobrareform.weebly.com/.

December 14, 2009 - 11:38am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

For those losing their COBRA subsidy or who are struggling to find free or low-cost healthcare services, there are many community-based programs for healthcare services you may not be aware of. I would suggest downloading a book called The Healthcare Survival Guide at www.healthcaresurvivalguide.com. This book contains tips to save money, information on free or low-cost services and more. The book is currently being offered for free as a download from the publisher’s website but it can also be found on amazon.com for $6.95.

December 14, 2009 - 8:50am
(reply to Anonymous)

A note: To view the book for free at the above website, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, and must register with the website (name, address, email address and whether you are an employer, an employee, or unemployed).

December 14, 2009 - 9:13am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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