Some good news from DC…

A key bill passed the U.S. Senate today…

OK, it’s not the big health reform bill, or even a comprehensive jobs bill, but it was a portion of a jobs package that would provide big benefits for health care in California.

One in a series of bills on jobs, this emergency relief package, the “American Workers, State and Business Relief Act,” was approved by a vote of 62-36. Much thanks to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein for their support. It will go to the House of Representatives, who have passed their own version of a jobs bill, before it goes to the President for his signature.

The legislation, (H.R. 4213), has an extension of unemployment and benefits and contains several health-related provisions that are of particular importance to California, including:
* Extending the COBRA subsidy from the earlier stimulus bill. For unemployed California families, the average monthly COBRA premium is $1,107. The COBRA premium assistance reduced this cost to $388 per month, and without this benefit, unemployed Californians could lose $720 a month.
* Providing help to the state budget through a six month extension of the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) enacted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which otherwise would end on December 31, 2010. This extension through June 2011 would provide an increase of $1.5 to $2 billion in federal funding for California’s 2010-11 budget.
* Delaying a 21.2 percent cut in payments to physicians who treat California’s 4,672,923 Medicare beneficiaries and many TRICARE enrollees in California.

A detailed summary of the benefits for California can be found online at: http://dpc.senate.gov/docs/states-sr-111-2-33/ca.pdf

The COBRA subsidy will be welcome for California, with our high unemployment rate. And the relief for our state budget is crucial, to help close our deficit and prevent much, much worse budget cuts. The House had passed these elements in other bills, but it’s very good news that the Senate has finally acted.

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