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Jim Sullivan lost his job as a manager at a wholesale distributor in June 2009, but he kept his health insurance thanks to the stimulus bill, which lowered his monthly premium from $638 to $223. Unfortunately for anyone laid off after May 31, House Democrats decided to forgo reauthorizing the 65 percent subsidy for COBRA, the federal program that allows laid off workers like Sullivan to continue their former employer's health insurance for 18 months -- but at full cost. Without the subsidy, COBRA is prohibitively expensive in most cases. According to a new report from Families USA, unemployed workers who choose to buy health insurance via COBRA have to hand over 84.3 percent of their monthly unemployment benefit. "The elimination of COBRA subsidies means that people losing their jobs will also lose their health care coverage," said Families USA director Ron Pollack in a statement. "Such a loss of health coverage flies in the face of the recently enacted health reform legislation that is intended to expand health coverage to tens of millions of people." The Treasury Department reported in May that 15 percent of people receiving unemployment benefits are taking advantage of the subsidy. That's roughly 1.5 million people (67 percent of the 15 million unemployed receive benefits). "[T]he subsidy appears to have been especially important for maintaining health insurance coverage for middle-class families during the recession," said Treasury's report, which noted that families earning between $30,000 and $134,000 accounted for most of the people using the subsidy. "Indeed, the availability of the program may have significantly slowed the growth of the uninsured population, which had been skyrocketing through February 2009."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/07/layoff-victims-now-ineligible_n_599426.html

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Posted 12:37 PM  View Comments

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