Lawmakers Look At Health Help For The Unemployed

People out of work not only lose their income, but often, their health insurance as well.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin announced Wednesday he is supporting a bill in the N.C. Senate that qualify workers who get laid off from small business for federal benefits that extend the enrollment period and helps pay for COBRA health insurance.

COBRA gives workers and their families the option to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plans for limited periods of time under certain circumstances.

The program for smaller companies, those with less than 20 workers, is referred to as "mini-COBRA."

The federal stimulus package extends the election period for eligible employees to enroll in the federal COBRA program. It does not, however, extend the election period for mini-COBRA. The bill in the N.C. Senate would extend the election period for mini-COBRA.

The federal stimulus package also created a subsidy to pay for 65% of the premium for both COBRA and mini-COBRA recipients who enroll from Sept. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2009.

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