COBRA Subsidy Keeping Thousands of Unemployed Insured Expires Today, but Could be Extended

A federally provided subsidy that covered 65% of the medical insurance costs for up to nine months for the unemployed expires today, meaning health insurance costs will skyrocket and likely be out of reach for scores of jobless Americans. But an Illinois Congressman is working to have the subsidy extended.

COBRA requires employers to offer laid-off or terminated employees the same health insurance coverage they had as an employee for up to 18 months, but employees must bear the entire cost themselves, rather than receiving a subsidy most employers extend. This difference can triple or quadruple the cost of coverage. For example, in Illinois, the average family coverage with the subsidy was $389 a month, but without it, it will shoot to $1,139 monthly.

"For many people this is all they have and one of the reasons we need comprehensive health care," Rep. Phil Hare, (D-Ill.), told Chicago's WMAQ-TV. "We have 14,000 people everyday in this country losing their health insurance as it is."

WMAQ-TV reported that Hare has approached Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about extending the subsidy before the current Congressional session ends. "One way or another it appears the House is going to move on this before we adjourn, which is wonderful news because without it, this is literally life and death for many people," he told the TV station.

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