Congress Withdraws Health Assistance for Those Who Need it Most, Forcing Many to Make Tough Financial Decisions Skip to main content

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Congress Withdraws Health Assistance for Those Who Need it Most, Forcing Many to Make Tough Financial Decisions

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The times they are a’ changing.’ But are they really getting better for the unemployed?

Back in the 1980s, laws like COBRA were enacted to protect laid-off workers from losing their precious health care immediately following their job loss. COBRA allowed, and currently allows, for unemployed Americans to keep their former employer-provided health care benefits for up to 18 months, assuming those same employees pay the full amount of their premiums along with additional administrative charges.

But fast forward to the recessionary 2000s, when family premiums average about $13,500—economically out of range for many, if not most, of the millions of today’s unemployed.

Taking into account the astronomical cost of health care, a 2009 stimulus bill, with subsequent expansions, tried to changed all that, providing a reprieve in the form 65 percent federal subsidy on health insurance for up to 15 months.  According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, “Workers laid off through May 31 [could] qualify for the benefit through their former employer. ‘It has been a significant program and it has helped many middle-class families to keep their health insurance at a time when maintaining health insurance was difficult because of the high rate of job loss," said Alan Krueger, the Treasury Department's chief economist. Official statistics on how many people were helped have yet to be compiled, but Krueger estimates that as many as one-third of eligible unemployed workers enrolled in subsidized coverage.’”

However, this good news is tempered by the fact that Congress is now allowing this emergency health care assistance for unemployed workers to officially expire on May 31, with little willingness to renew it despite pleas from President Obama. And with the unemployment rate still at staggering levels (at just under 10 percent) and with 15 million people looking for work, this post-recession withdrawal of health care assistance is being touted as premature at best.

According to the same The Huffington Post article, “on Saturday night, the White House released a letter Obama sent to congressional leaders of both parties asking for nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments to fend off ‘massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters’ and to prevent a possible double-dip recession. ‘We are at a critical juncture on our nation's patch to economic recovery," the president warned. "It is essential that we continue to explore additional measures to spur job creation and build momentum toward recovery, even as we establish a path to long-term fiscal discipline. At this critical moment, we cannot afford to slide backwards just as our recovery is taking hold.’”

But for some, this experience hardly represents a recovery at all. And from teachers to police to factory workers, this latest economic setback is just one in a long line forcing people to make tough financial decisions. In Marietta, Ohio, for example, “boiler operator Neil Davis is facing the loss of his job as the coal-burning power plant he works at prepares to shut down for good. Davis, 33, has marketable skills but he's unsure how quickly he'll be able to find comparable work. His wife is a stay-at-home mom raising two elementary-age children. ‘Being able to have coverage at an affordable rate, we wouldn't be afraid to take the kids to the doctor if they get sick,’ said Davis. "The economy might be getting better some place, but I don't know where at.’”

For many, the quickest route to recovery comes from bankruptcy.  Instead of giving up health insurance, bankruptcy allows average Americans to surrender consumer and medical debts that have been keeping them down, while allowing them to devote the dollars they do have to the important work of keeping their families healthy—even if (and when) they’re out of work.

If you too have been effected by the employment crisis, knowing a qualified bankruptcy attorney can also help you to face your financial fears, yielding the right kinds of support, information and insights—at a low cost— for a viable and secure future beyond our own “Great Recession.”  The bankruptcy experts at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt offer a totally FREE debt consultation and now, more than ever, it’s time to take them up on their offer. Just call toll free to 1-888-234-4181, or during the off hours, you can make your own appointment right online at www.billsbills.com. Simply click on the yellow “FREE Consultation Now” button.

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