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Carper, colleagues press for federal COBRA subsidies in COVID-19 legislation

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, joined Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and 17 senators in sending a letter on April 17 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to ensure any forthcoming COVID-19 legislation include robust federal subsidies so that individuals who lose their job as a result of this pandemic can maintain their employer-sponsored health coverage.

One option for Americans who lose their jobs, or drop below the hours necessary to be eligible for employer-sponsored health coverage, is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows people to keep the employer-sponsored coverage that they selected for up to 18 months. However, instead of having employers contribute to the premium costs, individuals are responsible for having to pay the full insurance premium themselves — an average of $1,700 a month for a family plan — which is often unaffordable for those newly unemployed. In the letter, the senators called on Congress to craft a bill that provides a robust federal COBRA premium subsidy for individuals who would otherwise lose their employer-sponsored coverage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Allowing families to maintain the coverage they previously selected will help ensure continuity of care and limit disruption for both families and employers as our economy gets back on track,” wrote the senators. “We stand ready and eager to work with you to ensure that the next COVID-19 relief package includes this important policy, which will ensure that millions of people losing their jobs as a result of this pandemic will not also suddenly become uninsured and at risk for catastrophic health care costs.”

In the U.S., more than half of Americans receive their health coverage through their employer. Depending on the extent of unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, between 23 to 35 million workers could end up losing their employer-based health care coverage.

The full text of the letter is available at bit.ly/34MjnDz.