Today, the Assembly Health Committee considered another bill to help draw down federal money to California.
The federal economic recovery package included a subsidy so laid-off workers can get a 65% subsidy for premiums under COBRA. The bill considered today allows a greater number of Californians to take advantage of those resources.
Right now, the federal COBRA law, which allows workers to keep their groups coverage after they leave an employer, is only available to workers of employers of 20 or more. The new bill extends the COBRA subsidy to the state CalCOBRA law, which covers workers of employers from 2-19 workers. The new law would also give Californians who were laid off late last year or early this year better notice and a second chance to take advantage of COBRA.
This is crucial: Just over half of Californians get coverage from their employer. Losing their employer-based coverage is a big deal, for the sake of continuity of care, for getting the group-negotiated rate, and most of all, for not being denied for “pre-existing conditions,” which is possible, even likely, in the individual market. But the problem is losing your job is a tough time to ask to pay full premium for coverage. That’s why the subsidy is so important, especially as California reaches a 10.5% unemployment rate.
Earlier today, Health Access was pleased to participate in a press conference with Assemblymembers Dave Jones and Nathan Fletcher, chair and vice-chair of the Assembly Health Committee, respectively, as well as Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, and Joe Dunn of the California Medical Association. As that notably bipartisan event indicated, the bill passed later in the day without any “no” votes. That’s a good thing, given it is an urgency bill, and thus requires a 2/3 vote.