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According to a press release last week, Governor David Patterson (NY) submitted a bill to ensure that New Yorkers laid off by small business can qualify for federal benefits that pay up to 65% of COBRA health insurance premiums. COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue coverage provided by their group health plan for a limited period of time.

“The need to pass this bill is urgent because we must ensure as many people as possible retain their health coverage. One of the greatest challenges facing the State as a result of the current economic crisis is how we help unemployed New Yorkers retain access to their health insurance. Given the record levels of unemployment announced just last week, we need to move quickly to amend State law to make this subsidy available to as many New Yorkers as possible,” states Governor Paterson.

Unfortunately, COBRA is very expensive. Workers may be charged up to 102% of the full insurance premium. The American Recovery and reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed into law in February, makes a subsidy of 65% available to help cover the cost of COBRA health insurance premiums. Income limitations apply and no subsidies are available to individuals making annual incomes greater than $125,000 and couples making more than $250,000 annually.

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