WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) were joined by fourteen other senators today in introducing an amendment to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 that would reinstate the expired COBRA health care premium assistance for laid off workers.
"Millions of Americans have been hard hit by the recession and lost their jobs through no fault of their own," said Senator Casey. "Unfortunately, some people in Washington want to pull up the ladder and take away help for these struggling families. Not extending COBRA premium assistance will hurt hundreds of thousands of people in Pennsylvania and across the country and it will add further strain on our recovering economy."
“We need to prevent unemployed workers for joining the rolls of the uninsured,” Brown said. “When there are few jobs to be had, the inability to afford COBRA premiums becomes an even more acute problem. I’ve received letters and emails from Ohioans who describe how COBRA is more expensive than rent or food. That’s why we need to extend this subsidy for workers who have recently lost their jobs.”
The COBRA assistance expired on May 31st. The Casey-Brown amendment would extend the program through November 30, 2010.
The amendment to extend COBRA premium assistance is also cosponsored by Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Roland Burris (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and AL Franken (D-MN).
In addition, Senators Casey and Brown also sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) urging support for an extension of COBRA premium assistance. This letter was also signed by Senators Leahy, Levin, Chris Dodd (D-CT), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Kerry, Harkin, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Akaka, Wyden, Reed, Stabenow, Lautenberg, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Whitehouse, Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Gillibrand, Begich, Franken and Burris.
Without the extension of the COBRA Premium Assistance Program a report from the National Employment Law Projects predicts as many as 150,000 Americans each month will lose out on the subsidies necessary to afford quality healthcare.
A study by Families USA shows that 4 million Americans, including 98,500 Pennsylvanians lost their employer-based coverage due to job loss in 2009.
The average cost of COBRA family coverage is three-quarters of monthly unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania and 40 other states. In some states, health premiums actually cost more than monthly unemployment benefits, slowly driving families further into debt.