While Congress is dithering, and listening to the deficit hawks squawking over the budget deficit, millions of unemployed Americans are facing difficult decisions to make about whether they should keep their COBRA health insurance. Many of these Americans will decide to go without their COBRA health insurance because they can't afford the full cost of the monthly premium, which comes out to around $1,000 average, on their unemployment benefits.
Many already have severe health conditions, some of their spouses have cancer, and some of their kids are sick. These Americans, already hit by unemployment, are falling by the wayside because our Congress decided that addressing the deficit was more important than caring about the needs of the unemployed and their families.
FamiliesUSA, a noted advocacy organization, has come out with their own report on how the COBRA subsidy cuts would have the perverse effectof forcing millions of unemployed Americans to go without health insurance coverage. Here are the highlights of their report below:
- Family premiums for COBRA coverage average $387 a month nationally with the help of the ARRA subsidy. Without the subsidy, they will skyrocket to an average of $1,107 a month for unemployed families.
- The national average amount of the ARRA subsidy for family COBRA coverage is $719 a month.
- Without the subsidy, unemployed workers nationally will have to spend, on average, 84.3 percent of their monthly unemployment insurance checks on COBRA premiums to keep their families covered.
- The average monthly cost of family COBRA coverage without a subsidy exceeds the average monthly unemployment income in 11 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Read that last part again--the average monthly cost of family COBRA insurance exceeds the average monthly unemployment income in these eleven states without the subsidy!
Here are the stories from unemployed American families about how much the COBRA subsidies have helped them out, and how worried they are about affording health insurance without these subsidies:
Dozens of people currently benefiting from the subsidy wrote to CNNMoney.com in recent days to say how crucial it is. Without the extra help, they said they could not afford to pay for their coverage and their treatments for diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and other ailments.
"I'm unemployed. I don't have money to pay for medical bills," said Stephanie Kohnke, a St. Paul, Minn. resident who lost her job in May and is waiting to be approved for the subsidy. "This is the worst time to lose that safety net."
Ann Bates is thankful that she has the COBRA subsidy that brings her monthly premium down to $181 a month. Without it, she'd have to pay more than $500 a month for coverage, a price she couldn't afford since she only collects $1,450 in unemployment benefits.
A Cedar Rapids, Iowa resident who lost her office manager job in February, Bates said she must have health insurance or she couldn't afford the insulin she takes for her diabetes. With insurance, it costs her $75 a month but without it, the price zooms to more than $300. And that doesn't include the cost of syringes and test strips.
And these unemployed Americans are facing the loss of their COBRA subsidies because of the budget deficit hawks in Congress, squawking about how important it is to cut the deficit in a time of recession. They'd rather slash social programs that actually help people, rather than deal with actually asking the wealthy to pitch in via higher taxes, and they love to talk about how everyone has to pitch in to cut the deficit, while crossing their fingers behind their backs to exempt the wealthy from this.
It's now a pattern of asking the middle class and the lower class to pitch in by cutting and slashing social programs designed to benefit them, and to keep them from falling through the cracks, while these Members of Congress fight against proposed tax increases for the wealthy and working to make sure that Wall Street continues its same pattern of unchecked excesses. These Members of Congress would rather stand with the wealthy rather than with the middle class, and especially with the unemployed and their families. After all, these unemployed Americans just have to 'tighten' their belts even more and pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
This is your chance now to tell the Senate what you think about their misplaced priorities, and tell them to stand up for millions of unemployed Americans and their families by restoring their COBRA subsidies. Or else, these families will be forced to go without insurance.
Will you also please donate $5, $10, or $20 to help us whip the Senate into restoring COBRA subsidies for unemployed Americans and their families?
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