July 13, 2006: Congressman Ryan and Congressman Strickland to Introduce Legislation Ensuring Delphi and Forum Workers Have Access to Affordable Healthcare
WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Niles) and Congressman Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) announced that they will introduce legislation to help ensure that workers affected by downsizing at Delphi and Forum Health are able to retain affordable healthcare for themselves and their families.
Under current law, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires continuation of health coverage to be offered for up to 18 months to eligible employees, their spouses, their former spouses, and their dependent children when group health coverage would otherwise be lost due to certain specific events such as an employee's termination. The required payment for continuation of coverage, however, is often more expensive than the amount that active employees are required to pay for group health coverage, since the employer usually pays part of the cost of employees' coverage and all of that cost can be charged to the individuals receiving continuation coverage.
The proposal offered by Ryan and Strickland would extend COBRA eligibility to 36 months from 18 months and ensure that for the first 12 months of COBRA coverage the federal government would pay the full cost of the employee's participation in his or her ex-employer's health insurance plan. During the second 12 months of COBRA coverage, the employee would be responsible for 50 percent of the cost of the health insurance plan. After 24 months, the employee would be responsible for the full cost of COBRA coverage.
"COBRA coverage is an indispensable benefit for those who qualify," said Congressman Ryan. "But as health care costs continue to skyrocket, many individuals especially those newly unemployed simply cannot afford to pay the cost of remaining on their previous heath plan. Our legislation would fix this problem and ensure that workers experiencing such hardship will be able to afford heath care coverage for themselves and their families."
"Increasingly, workers find themselves facing the loss of health care benefits," Strickland said. "These benefits are invaluable and oftentimes unaffordable. For those who become unemployed, this legislation will provide a safety net in regard to continuing health care benefits. Additionally, help with the expenses of health care coverage may encourage more workers to choose retraining or re-education. Congressman Ryan and I will fight to move this legislation, and we will also continue to fight for fair trade practices and end the rampant outsourcing of American jobs."
Events which may trigger COBRA eligibility include the death of a covered employee, voluntary or involuntary termination, divorce, or legal separation from a covered employee, a covered employee's becoming entitled to Medicare, a child's loss of dependent status (and therefore coverage) under the plan, or a reduction in the hours of a covered employee's employment for reasons other than gross misconduct.