NU Online News Service — Jan. 22, 2009, 3:52 p.m. EST
The House Ways and Means Committee today marked up a bill that could subsidize the cost of continuing group health coverage for laid-off workers and cut workers’ share of the premiums to 35%.
Ways and Means members voted 24-13 to approve the bill, H.R. 598, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Title III of the bill is the Health Insurance Assistance for the Unemployed Act of 2009.
House leaders will combine H.R. 598 with other bills to create H.R. 1, a new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and bring the bill up for a vote on the floor next week, committee leaders say.
The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has posted a summary of Title III of H.R. 598 here.
The Ways and Means text of H.R. 1 is available here.
H.R. 598 was introduced by Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
The current federal health benefits continuation law, the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act, requires employers with 20 or more employees that provide group health benefits to to provide access to continuation benefits for 18 months. Employers and health insurers can charge the workers who take up the coverage 102% of the usual premium.
Under H.R. 598, laid-off workers could contnue health benefits for 12 months by paying just 35% of the premiums. The government would pay the remaining 65% of the premiums.Group health plan members laid off without cause could keep subsidized continuation benefits for 12 months, or until they received new major medical coverage.