Keeping workplace health coverage

    The federal stimulus law gives laid-off people a 65 percent recession-time discount for health insurance premiums.

    Laid off workers should get details soon on their right to a hefty discount, if they want to hold on to their workplace health insurance. Saturday is the deadline for the first wave of COBRA notices on the discount. (Photo Flickr/Giant Ginkgo)

    Listen:

    [audio:090416tecobra.mp3]

    COBRA is continuation coverage that let’s workers buy into their employer’s group health plan at full price. But the federal stimulus law provides some recession-time relief. It allows laid-off workers to pay just 35 percent of the cost.

    The federal COBRA benefit is only for workers from larger companies, but New Jersey has extended that option to small firms with 20 or fewer employees. In Pennsylvania, Representative Rob Matzie is sponsoring similar legislation.

    Matzie: Some small business advocates were concerned that they would have to pick up the 65 percent premium themselves. If it’s in a group insurance plan, the tax credit would actually go to the group insurer, so that takes the small business owner off the hook.

    Now that it is clear that small businesses won’t pay out-of-pocket to make the discount available, Matzie says agreement on the bill should come soon.

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