Pig Farts and COBRA

LBJ conceived the Great Society to eliminate poverty and racial injustice.

George H. W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind to provide quality basic education to all children.

Obama is promising there will be No Patients Left Behind as part of his master plan to save the USA from economic collapse.

We still have poverty, racial inequity and students in public schools are still failing. So will the Spendulus Bill with promises to end inequity in health care and provide universal coverage succeed? Will there be No Patients Left Behind?

Let's see what Cassandra Kelsey has to say about that.

Cassandra lost her job with Verizon in January.

Kelsey walks with a cane and lists a litany of ailments, including degenerative arthritis and hypertension. For her, going without health insurance is unthinkable.

COBRA became law in 1986 and provided, among other things, a way for employees to continue their group insurance plan for up to 18 months (in most cases), providing them a way to bridge over to their next job with benefits. For the last 22+ years employees have had an option to assure they would not be without health insurance after leaving their job. So how many have prepared for that situation?

Very few.

Outside a District of Columbia career center on a recent morning, Kelsey clutched copies of her COBRA invoice, clippings from a newspaper about the stimulus bill, and a form letter she received from the White House after writing to President Obama.

Kelsey knew about the reduced premium and said it would bring her COBRA costs below $200 a month. But when she called her benefits department, she was distressed to learn that she would not be able to get the reduced cost immediately, probably not until May.

"I can't take advantage of it now, which I think is totally unfair,"

Unfair? As much as I empathize with Ms. Kelsey I fail to see how this burdensome new program from the O.G.M. (Office of Government Meddling) is unfair.

As part of the Spendulus Bill, employers are now required to subsidize 65% of the COBRA premiums for severed employees for up to 9 months. Supposedly they will get a credit against future payroll taxes to offset this cost but the program has only been in the air for a few weeks and already some employers are considering dropping their group coverage as a way of avoiding the financial burden of paying for benefits for laid off employees.

A $25 billion provision in the stimulus plan aimed to cut COBRA's price tag, reducing its cost 65 percent for workers laid off as far back as Sept. 1.

That's $25 billion out of $787 billion to spendulate the economy. If Congress really wanted to help those out of work you would think they would allocate more to COBRA subsidies and find a way to make it less onerous for employers who are already struggling.

Instead, Congress deems it better to spend $1 million on Mormon Crickets in Utah, a total of $41.5 million to renovate libraries for 3 dead presidents, and another $1.8 million for Swine Odor and Manure management.

In the big scheme of things, when you are talking about spending billions of taxpayer money, allocating $300,000 for GoGirlGo is not a lot of money. But somehow I don't think Ms. Kelsey will agree that it is better to support mormon cricket research and pig farts is more noble than helping out people who are unemployed.

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