House Democrats Introduce Bill to Help Workers Keep Job-Based Health Coverage During COVID-19 Crisis
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-04), and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) introduced legislation to help workers maintain their job-based health insurance in response to an unprecedented wave of layoffs and furloughs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, would provide federal assistance to cover the full cost of COBRA premiums for workers or the full cost of health insurance premiums owed by workers who are furloughed.
By helping workers maintain their existing coverage, the proposal would mean workers would not be forced to change plans, leave their provider networks, restart annual deductibles, or face a potential coverage gap.
“In the midst of a public health crisis, it is critical that workers and their families maintain access to affordable health care,” Chairman Scott said. “Over the past three weeks, nearly 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and many of them are at risk of losing access to their employment-based health care coverage. The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act would provide immediate relief to workers and families by making sure they do not lose their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic.”
“In Nevada, we have already seen more than 300,000 people losing their jobs or being furloughed due to the coronavirus. By extending COBRA benefits and providing 100 percent federal financing, the Worker Coverage Protection Act will safeguard Nevada's families and families across the nation from financial ruin and safeguard their access to the health care that is so vital during this pandemic,” said Congressman Horsford, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Millions have lost their jobs or been furloughed, and with that many have lost their health care. High and unaffordable COBRA premiums prevent them from continuing their health coverage and they are scared to death,” said Congresswoman Dingell, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “During a public health crisis such as this, access to quality and affordable healthcare is essential and critical. We must work together to keep down the cost of COBRA and ensure anyone laid off or furloughed can afford to get necessary healthcare and medicine they may need.”
Workers who are temporarily without work or subject to reduced hours can currently keep their job-based coverage for a limited period of time through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). However, COBRA coverage is often unaffordable because workers must pay both the employee and employer shares of the premium. In addition, many workers who are not eligible for COBRA, but have been furloughed, cannot afford to pay their share of the premium to maintain their coverage.
The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act provides financial assistance to workers and families by covering the full cost of COBRA premiums for people who lose their jobs or have their hours reduced due to COVID-19. The bill also protects access to health care coverage for workers who are furloughed by covering their health insurance premiums until they return to work.
The legislation is modeled after a similar program enacted in 2009 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which helped working families to preserve their existing health coverage.
To read the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act bill text, click here.
To read a fact sheet on the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, click here.
To read a summary of the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, click here.