NCPA's Scandlen To Congress: Provide Choice With Help

Health Policy Expert Urges Lawmakers to Give Families the Choice of What Kind of Help They Need

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October. 2, 2001) - Congress is under immense pressure to help those Americans who find themselves out of work in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attack pay for continuation of their health insurance. Greg Scandlen, senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), suggests Congress should consider providing flexible financial support, to allow the unemployed workers to choose what insurance option is best for their family.

Currently, Congress is discussing subsidizing unemployed workers' COBRA payments. COBRA is a federal law that allows unemployed workers to continue their health benefits for a limited period of time -- most often 18 months. But they must pay the full amount their employers were paying, plus two percent for administrative costs. On average, that means the newly laid-off worker will have to pay over $600 a month for family coverage.

Scandlen notes that not everyone will want to buy into COBRA. Instead, many workers will opt to purchase coverage on the individual market that may cost only half or less of what the COBRA premiums would be.

"Not everyone can afford 'Cadillac' coverage while they are unemployed, even if it is being subsidized," said Scandlen. "Also, COBRA is purely a short-term fix, unlike an individual policy that comes with no time limits.

"If Congress wants to subsidize health insurance premiums of laid-off workers, it should give those workers the flexibility to choose what makes the most sense for their family, rather than locking them into their employers' policies under COBRA."

To schedule an interview with Scandlen to discuss how Congress should help workers' with their health care, contact the NCPA's public affairs office.