ACP-ASIM Urges Congress to expand COBRA, provide tax credit for uninsured
Monday, October 8, 2001
(Washington, DC): The American College of Physicians - American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) is urging Congress to provide subsidies and expand the time period in which laid-off workers may retain health insurance through The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA).
At present, COBRA generally provides that employees may continue receiving health care insurance coverage through a group plan for 18 months after employment termination, however employers are not required to contribute to the payment of the premium.
"The COBRA Plus Action of 2001," introduced by Senator James Jeffords, would add an additional nine months of COBRA coverage. It would also offer an individual tax credit of up to 50% of the premium.
"Senator Jeffords' legislation will help reduce the number of uninsured and provide relief to the many individuals and families who continue to be affected by the tragic events of September 11," said ACP-ASIM President William J. Hall, MD, FACP.
Participation in COBRA depends on its affordability. Often, unemployed individuals cannot afford to pay for the insurance previously provided by their employer. For these people, the ACP-ASIM suggests increasing the COBRA subsidy to 100 percent for low-income individuals. This would help tens of thousands more people who are unemployed and unable to afford their 50 percent contribution to the health insurance premium.
"There are several important features of Senator Jeffords' individual tax credit that should increase participation COBRA," said Dr. Hall. "It is refundable, so those with no tax liability will still receive the credit, and it includes an advance payment option that allows the credit to be paid directly to the insurance company."
In addition to expanding COBRA, the ACP-ASIM urges Congress to consider a variety of other approaches to reduce the number of uninsured.
- Provide SCHIP coverage or Medicaid to parents and simplify the enrollment process.
- Provide transitional coverage for up to 24 months for Medicaid and SCHIP enrollees who lose eligibility.
- Consider tax credits for the purchase of health insurance as another way to increase coverage.
"Senator Jeffords' legislation will ease the hardship of many Americans whose health is jeopardized by a lack of health insurance coverage," said Dr. Hall.
American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) represents more than 115,000 physicians and medical students. It is the largest medical specialty society and the second largest medical organization in the United States.
Jack Pope, ACP-ASIM Washington Office, (202) 261-4556
Jennifer Whalen, ACP-ASIM Washington Office (202) 261-4575
Page updated: 11-03-03