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Government Measures to Help with Health Insurance

The rising unemployment rate is causing not just job loss but also the loss of valuable health insurance coverage for many people. In response, the federal government has enacted new legislation to help with COBRA coverage as well as state aid to families with children.

Changes to COBRA
COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1986. Under COBRA, if you worked for a company that had more than 20 employees, then you are able to continue on the group health insurance plan for as much as 18 months. The downside of COBRA is that it can be quite expensive. In most states, recipients report that COBRA payments account for more than 75% of their unemployment benefit. However, under the recently passed Economic Stimulus Package, you could be eligible for assistance with 65% of your COBRA premium.

To qualify for the program you must have lost your job between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. Your income must be less than $125,000 for an individual and less than $250,000 a year for a family. If you did not take advantage of COBRA initially, you can still sign up for it. If you did sign up for COBRA coverage, you won't get any money back for the premiums you have already paid, but you will be eligible for assistance from the point after the law has taken effect. Under the new law you will pay 35% of the premium, and the government pays the other 65%. Your assistance could continue for as much as nine months.

State Children's Health Insurance Program

Another measure the federal government has taken recently to help people with health insurance coverage is to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP. The law will provide $32 billion to the program over the next five years and expand coverage to from 7 to 11 million children. SCHIP is designed to provide health care coverage for children up to age 19 and pregnant women, in families whose income is low, but not low enough to qualify for Medicaid. A portion of the funding will come from an increase in the tax on cigarettes.

Under SCHIP, the federal government provides the states with matching funds to provide health care for families with children. To qualify, families could earn only up to 200% of the poverty level. Under the new law, families can earn up to 300% of the poverty level and still qualify for SCHIP. Each state has set up their program differently, so programs can vary from state to state.

If you find yourself out of a job and out of health insurance, two recent measures by the federal government may provide some assistance. The first are changes to the COBRA program in which the government could pick up to 65% of the cost of your health insurance premium. The other is the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Either of these options could provide short-term assistance with health insurance coverage for the recently unemployed.
Kevin Kielty lives in North Carolina and writes articles on health insurance. If you are looking for rate quotes on health insurance in North Carolina, visit BCBSNC, also known as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina www.ncinsuranceplan.com

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