Today is the last day of subsidies that made COBRA health coverage affordable. Phil Galewitz has a good article on these subsidies, which were included in the ARRA stimulus package, and were extended in subsequent pieces of legisation, but no longer.
Even though it had its limits, the COBRA subsidy was a big help for those who could take advantage of it. As people lost jobs, they also lost their health coverage—a double whammy that the COBRA subsidy helped some families avoid.
The help was not universal: other families who were already uninsured, or whose company went bankrupt or who otherwise didn’t have COBRA available to them, were out of luck–but for those who got this financial assistance, it was a critical lifeline.
The loss of the COBRA subsidy means some families will lose coverage, and thus join the ranks of the uninsured—not just living sicker and dying younger, but being one emergency from financial ruin. The best case scenario is that families who are already struggling and between jobs will have to pay more to stay insured, leaving less money for the other necessities of life.
It’s also a shame that the COBRA subsidy couldn’t have lasted a little longer, as a true bridge to the Exchanges under health reform, where they will get coverage subsidized on a sliding scale. Now, many families will become uninsured, and we’ll have to find them again in a few short years.