Republican Senator Jim Bunning, who was known as a daffy baseball pitcher back in the day and a casual senator with a tendency to napping in session in the present, has given up his one-man speed bump imitation and will allow Democrats’ plan to extend COBRA benefits and subsidies to unemployed workers for an additional month, among other expenditures totaling $10B, to pass. In addition, further legislation will be forthcoming soon to extend the COBRA plan another year.
Unfortunately, no one seems to be talking about the kind of change to COBRA legislation – which allows employees to pay their former employers to keep them enrolled in the company’s health care plan for up to 15 months – that’s really needed. That is, making COBRA available to employees in perpetuity.
Why a 15 month limit? It’s arbitrary, of course, and obviously aimed at ensuring workers have at least an opportunity to retain their coverage whilst looking for new employment. But the fact of the matter is that there is no reason why former employees shouldn’t have access to their former medical plan for as long as they’re willing to foot the bill.
Yes, there’s overhead on the part of the employer, but it’s minimal. Moreover, given the exorbitant cost of COBRA coverage, former employees would have every incentive to limit their use of this safety net.
As for the rest of the bill that Bunning was holding up, it’s the typical Washington ball of mud in which billions of dollars for unrelated projects are wadded into one bill, worthy and unworthy alike, so as to make voting down the pork projects contained therein politically unpalatable.
This is the kind of legislation that makes Americans despise Congress. Would it be too much to ask for our representatives to simply declare what they’re spending our money one and vote for each expenditure on its merits? As it is, the taxpayer is buying at least one bottle of snake oil along with every worthwhile bill passed in the nation’s capital.