Both houses of Congress are considering legislation that would extend subsidies for those receiving insurance coverage under the auspices of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February, it provided a 65% subsidy on COBRA premiums for nine months for unemployed workers. With those subsidies set to expire on Dec. 31, 2009, bills have been introduced to extend the subsidies until next June.

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Sestak, (D-Penn), the Extended COBRA Continuation Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 3930), would extend the current 65% government subsidy from nine months to 15 months, and extend the maximum duration one may receive federal COBRA benefits from 18 months to 24 months.

Under consideration by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the COBRA Subsidy Extension and Enhancement Act of 2009 (S. 2730) also would extend the COBRA subsidy for an additional six months, and would raise the premium subsidy from 65% to 75%. The bill would also offer coverage to employees who have had an involuntary reduction in hours.

“Unemployed workers should be able to focus on finding work, instead of worrying about how to afford medical care for their families,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “This bill will make temporary health coverage more affordable and accessible for American families. No family should be one medical visit away from financial disaster.”

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