just when you thought it was safe to refocus on the state legislature, with budget and bill deadlines looming, we get a reminder that we can’t not let up the focus on Congress.
Congress has gone on their Memorial Day holiday break, but without addressing the needed extensions in either COBRA or FMAP. Both the COBRA and FMAP provisions were stripped from the House “Extenders” Package, H.R. 4213 today.
Both provisions would have extended federal aid that was in the federal stimulus pacakage, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, aid that is soon set to expire. The COBRA provision would extend the premium assistance that is being provided to those who lost their jobs during this recession but are trying to afford to stay insured. The FMAP provision extends the enhanced federal Medicaid matching dollars that would otherwise run out on December 31, 2010–the six month extension means almost $2 billion for California’s state 2010-11 budget.
H.R. 4213, which had other extensions of both assistance and tax breaks, were passed in two parts. A package of tax extensions and unemployment benefits were approved 215-204. A scaled-back version of the fixes to Medicare physician payments was approved 245-171, which includes small increases this year and next year. The Senate still needs to act on the bills when it returns from recess on June 7th.
Despite this setback, we need to work to ensure that Congress considers the crucial FMAP and COBRA provisions when they return.