Report: COBRA too expensive for most

Jan. 10, 2009 at 9:43 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Most laid-off U.S. workers can't afford to continue buying health insurance through their former employers as offered in an existing program, advocates say.

In a report released Friday, Families USA, a liberal advocacy group, concluded that 1985 legislation called COBRA, designed to enable newly unemployed workers to extend their employer-based health insurance for up to 18 months, is unaffordable for the typical family, The Washington Post reported.

"COBRA health coverage is great in theory and lousy in reality," Ron Pollack of Families USA told the newspaper. "For the vast majority of workers who are laid off, they and their families are likely to join the ranks of the uninsured."

Under COBRA, the laid-off worker must pay 102 percent of the policy's full cost. The survey found that in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia, the price of a standard COBRA family plan consumes three-fourths of the average unemployment check, the Post said.

But rather than subsidize health insurance policies in the economic recovery plan, health policy analyst Nina Owcharenko of the conservative Heritage Foundation said a better move would be to offer the employed high-deductible private policies or new state-based programs, the newspaper reported.

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