Putting the stimulus to work

Making health care coverage more affordable for Californians who are laid off from their jobs is certainly a priority. And so, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that does just that for former employees of small businesses.

The bill, AB 23, uses federal stimulus funds to subsidize 65 percent of the cost of Cal-COBRA coverage for the newly unemployed of businesses from 2 to 19 workers.

COBRA coverage, which continues a laid-off worker’s existing health care coverage for a period of up to nine months, is notoriously expensive and priced out-of-reach for many who have lost their jobs in this down economy. While the individual would still have to pay 35 percent of the premium, the subsidy can help a lot of Californians “between jobs” make ends meet while staying covered.

While the federal COBRA law only goes to employers of 20 or more, Cal-COBRA extends the option to workers of smaller employers. The bill, co-authored by Assemblymembers Dave Jones (D) and Nathan Fletcher (R), extends the new subsidy as well–but it requires proof of involuntary termination, and allows anyone who was laid off since September 1, 2008 to resume coverage.

The legislation, on a fast-track to take advantage of federal premium assistance, was sponsored by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Health Access California was in support with many other organizations.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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