A subsidy to help unemployed workers defray premium costs under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is beginning to expire.

The stimulus bill passed in February included a 65% subsidy on premiums that newly laid off workers could receive for up to nine months. Workers that exercised that option on March 1 saw their subsidies expire today.

Bills to extend the COBRA premium have been introduced to both houses but are still stuck in committee. 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.


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