The article I wrote in February about the COBRA assistance program for laid-off workers generated lots of comments from people who had missed the cutoff for qualifying (one by only 13 days) and were concerned about the arbitrary nature of the dates in the wording of the stimulus package.
In addition to the workers who were laid off prior to the September 1, 2008 cutoff, there are plenty of others who won’t be getting stimulus assistance when it comes to health insurance. People who worked for a company that went out of business (or stopped offering health insurance for whatever reason) won’t qualify, because there won’t be a health insurance policy for them to opt to continue via COBRA. In addition, people who were laid off from small businesses might not qualify if their state doesn’t have a “mini-COBRA” law allowing workers to continue coverage when they leave groups with fewer than 20 employees (federal COBRA regulations apply to groups with 20 or more employees). Colorado’s Mini-COBRA regulations allow an employee of a small business to continue coverage for up to 18 months, but there are several states that only allow for a few months of continuation – far less than the employees would qualify for if they had worked for larger companies. Some states have been taking action over the last few months to make sure that workers laid off from small businesses are eligible for the federal COBRA assistance program, but there are still 12 states that don’t have mini-COBRA laws (so residents of those states who were laid off from businesses with fewer than 20 employees won’t see any benefit at all from the COBRA assistance program, since they aren’t eligible for COBRA).
Nobody ever said life was fair, but this situation seems particularly unfair. I know that money is tight for the government right now, but I think that it would make things a little more fair if they were to expand the subsidy program to include subsidies for individual health insurance premiums (or state risk pool policies) for workers who were laid off before September, and for those who aren’t eligible for COBRA.