WASHINGTON–Congress finally approved legislation last night extending the 65% percent subsidy the unemployed can use to pay for health insurance under the Consolidate Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act program.
The provision is effective until May 31.
The provision extending COBRA and unemployment benefits until June 2 was contained in H.R. 4851, “The Continuing Extension Act of 2010.”
The bill also extends current Medicare payment rates for physicians through May 31, 2010, thus preventing a 21% payment reduction.
The House passed the bill, 289-112, after the Senate passed the bill in late afternoon, 59-38. The president signed the bill within an hour of when the House passed it.
The short-term extension of the programs was based on the goal that Congress complete work before the Memorial Day recess on a so-called tax extender’s bill that will include longer-term extensions of these programs, according to various industry officials.
The bill signed by the president Thursday night was originally passed by the House several weeks ago, but it had to be returned to the House after an amendment sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, extended the expiration dates for the various programs from the end of April.
That would have forced Congress to pass another extension before the end of the month or see the programs lapse again.
The American Benefits Council issued a statement that it hoped the bill now being worked on will include provisions providing funding relief for defined benefit pension plans.