Monday, March 2, 2009

"Confusion over details could snag healthcare safety net"?

"Cassandra J. Kelsey has tried to cut back on all her expenses since losing her job in January. But suffering from degenerative arthritis, she can't do without health care. That's why the 55-year-old District of Columbia resident was excited when President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill included a provision to slash costs for laid-off workers' health insurance. And that's why she was distressed to learn that, because the Obama administration has yet to tell employers exactly how to make the benefit work, it'll be weeks or months before she can claim it. . . . A $25 billion provision in the stimulus bill aims to cut COBRA's price tag, reducing its cost by 65 percent for workers laid off as far back as Sept. 1. The bill gives eligible workers 60 days to apply. Then they get the reduced-cost premium for nine months. But it's not going to happen right away. Employers are waiting for instructions from the Labor Department and the Internal Revenue Service on how to put the program into place. Both agencies posted some information online Thursday. Until employers get the guidance they need and notify potentially eligible ex-employees, most workers will not be able to apply for the new benefit. Many probably will not know it exists."

"The Obama administration rushed to include a health-care safety net for laid-off workers in the recently signed stimulus bill but has not told employers exactly how to make it work. As a result, tens of thousands of jobless people could wait months before getting help paying for health insurance that their employers previously had covered. “Too many people are still trying to figure this out,” said Heath Weems, director of human resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers. “There is a lot of confusion.”"

A $25 billion provision in an $800+ billion stimulus package was drafted in secret, behind closed doors, without input from the public or the bureaucracy. Then, the stimulus bill was voted on without benefit of committee hearings or public debate, with provisions inserted and deleted by hand at the last minute. Why is anyone surprised that neither the public nor the bureaucracy is ready to implement? And, isn't this what critics of the rush to pass a stimulus bill, any stimulus bill, predicted?

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