Bill Would Extend COBRA's Hand

November 2, 2009 ( - Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would extend COBRA provisions for workers who are involuntarily terminated.

Under H.R. 3930, introduced last week by Congressman Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania), the COBRA subsidy contained in the recent economic stimulus bill would be provided for up to 15 months, and those laid off from January 1, 2010, through June 30, 2010, would also be eligible for subsidy, according to Business Insurance.   Under the current provision, the the federal government pays 65% of COBRA health care premiums of employees who are involuntarily terminated.

The current subsidy is available for up to nine months for employees who have lost their jobs since September 1, 2008 (see H.R. 1 Contains COBRA Provisions ). Unless the law is extended, the subsidy will not be available to employees laid off after December 31, 2009, and – without an extension of the current law, employees who began collecting the subsidy on March 1, when it first generally became available, will lose it at the end of this month.

“Losing one’s job is difficult enough. But losing one’s health care along with it—and worrying about being able to get treatment for oneself and one’s family, or fearing bankruptcy in the event of injury or illness—is something Americans should not have to cope with in this difficult time,” Congressman Sestak said in statement, according to Business Insurance.

A recent analysis from Hewitt Associates clams that from March 2009 to June 2009, monthly COBRA enrollment rates for Americans eligible for the subsidy averaged 38%, up from 19% for the period of September 2008 through February 2009, while companies in the industrial manufacturing industry saw an 800% increase in COBRA enrollments since the subsidy was enacted, and enrollments for companies in the construction, leisure, and retail industries tripled (see  COBRA Enrollments Doubled Since Subsidy Enacted ).