Archive for Sunday, June 13, 2010

Extension on health care for jobless faces defeat

June 13, 2010

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— If Chuck Lacasse had gotten his pink slip four days earlier, Uncle Sam would have covered most of his family’s health insurance while he looked for a new job.

But Congress allowed emergency health care assistance for unemployed workers to expire May 31, and seems unwilling to renew it despite pleas from President Barack Obama.

Not three months after lawmakers passed his $1 trillion insurance overhaul, Obama is facing a rare defeat on health care at the hands of his own divided Democrats. Moderates have rebelled against adding billions more to the deficit in a treacherous election year.

“The same Congress that spent all this political capital trying to get people health insurance is going to take a crucial benefit away from unemployed people,” said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for the unemployed.

On June 4, Lacasse lost his job as advertising director for a company that makes nutritional supplements. He’ll soon have to pay the entire $1,500 monthly premium to keep his family covered under his former employer’s health insurance plan.

Until May 31, under Obama’s economic stimulus law, the government provided a 65 percent subsidy. That would have lowered his cost to $525.

“This really isn’t about welfare,” said Lacasse, 40. “It’s about buying people some time. In a position as specialized as mine, it would have been nice to know that I had some time to look for the right job.” He lives near Green Bay, Wis., with his wife and two children.

Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio have introduced a measure that would allow the program to continue helping people who get laid off through Nov. 30. That would cover Lacasse.

The lawmakers, who are seeking a vote this coming week, want to attach their nearly $7 billion provision to must-pass legislation that would extend unemployment benefits and make changes in dozens of federal programs. But a similar proposal was dropped from the House-passed bill, and Senate Democratic leaders also omitted it from their version.

“I’m concerned about it,” said Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a member of the Democratic leadership. “There will be people who fall through the cracks.”

Under a 1980s law known as COBRA, laid-off workers generally can stay on their former employers’ health plan for up to 18 months, provided they pay the full premium plus a small administrative charge. But with family premiums averaging about $13,500, the cost is prohibitive for most people.

That changed under the 2009 stimulus bill and subsequent expansions, which provided a 65 percent federal subsidy for up to 15 months. Workers laid off through May 31 can qualify for the benefit through their former employer.

“It has been a significant program and it has helped many middle-class families to keep their health insurance at a time when maintaining health insurance was difficult because of the high rate of job loss,” said Alan Krueger, the Treasury Department’s chief economist. Official statistics on how many people were helped have yet to be compiled, but Krueger estimates that as many as one-third of eligible unemployed workers enrolled in subsidized coverage.

‘Hanging on’

Melanie Miller, 34, who suffers from debilitating neurological problems, said the COBRA program allowed her to maintain her independence after losing her ad agency job. “Without the subsidy, I probably would have had to move back and live in my mother’s house in the basement,” said Miller, an artist who lives in Philadelphia.

With the unemployment rate hovering just under 10 percent and with 15 million people looking for work, advocates say it’s premature to withdraw assistance.

“We’re recovering, but we haven’t recovered fully,” Casey said. “Now is not the time to pull up the ladder on people who are hanging on, in some cases to the last rung.”

Some conservative Democrats, however, say they don’t understand why the government should subsidize workers who lose jobs with employer coverage and not others who are equally deserving — for example self-employed people priced out of the private market.

“You’re paying 65 percent of (one) family’s health care costs, but the neighbor next door, there’s no help for,” said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif. “So we’re picking and choosing. There’s an inequality there between our constituents.”

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

With more than 15 million out work where are the jobs?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Expanded and Improved Medicare for All

Would Provide Real Insurance Reform!

The United States spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on healthcare – $8160 per capita – yet performs poorly in comparison and leaves over 46 million people without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

Expanded and Improved Medicare for All is the solution.

  • Easy to Implement: Medicare has been in existence since 1966, it provides healthcare to those 65 and older, and satisfaction levels are high. The structure is already in place and can be easily expanded to cover everyone.

  • Simple: One entity – established by the government – would handle billing and payment at a cost significantly lower than private insurance companies. Private insurance companies spend about 31% of every healthcare dollar on administration. Medicare now spends about 3%.

  • Real Choice: An expanded and improved Medicare for All would provide personal choice of doctors and other healthcare providers. While financing would be public, providers would remain private. As with Medicare, you chose your doctor, your hospital, and other healthcare providers.

  • State and Local Tax Relief: Medicare for All would assume the costs of healthcare delivery, thus relieving the states and local governments of the cost of healthcare, including Medicaid, and as a result reduce State and local tax burdens.

  • Expanded coverage: Would cover all medically necessary healthcare services – no more rationing by private insurance companies. There would be no limits on coverage, no co-pays or deductibles, and services would include not only primary and specialized care but also prescription drugs, dental, vision, mental health services, and long-term care.

  • Everyone In, Nobody Out: Everyone would be eligible and covered. No longer would doctors ask what insurance you have before they treat you.

  • No More Overpriced Private Health Insurance: Medicare for All would eliminate the need for private health insurance companies who put profit before healthcare, unfairly limit choice, restrict who gets coverage, and force people into bankruptcy.

  • Lower Costs: Most people will pay significantly less for healthcare. Savings will be achieved in reduced administrative costs and in negotiated prices for prescription drugs.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

My Suggestions for Creating Jobs and Feeding the Economy ( 11 – 15 million citizens need jobs that feed our cookie jars)

It’s a tough market which unfortunately will require much help directly from my government and my tax dollars. Tax dollars going directly to employees is a win win and eliminates tax dollars going to high CEO salaries,shareholders and golden parachutes.

How can this be accomplished?

Put thousands on the federal government payroll in each state. This is better than unemployment and Social Services. Surely there are vacancies that can be legitimately filled . The economic impact will be felt nationwide in tons of communities which is the objective.

No doubt the enforcement arm of many departments were depleted during the Bush-Cheney years. This is not good. The USA needs investigative/enforcement staff to protect our tax dollars and the nations people. Demand created the need let’s face it.

Which departments come to mind: USDA FDA IRS EPA Banking and Loan Industry There must be more, Government jobs are the best for our economy = less waste.

How can the government feed dollars into Hydropower,Wind and Solar without losing so much to wasteful corporate practices? Put all USA military bases and VA Hospitals on alternative energy specifically Wind,Solar and Geo Thermal on site. Plenty of new jobs here.

A sensitive subject – College Loans . 1. Forgive loans to all who come from families that historically come from low income families $55,000 - $60,000 or less. 2. For those who can afford to pay off loans somehow, provide a one time 100% tax credit.

Remember the BUSHCO government created this massive economic disaster which means the government must accept responsibility for employing as many as possible. Otherwise expect more tax and user fee increases.

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