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Lt. Gov. Roberts Proposes Legislation to Give Colibri Workers and Others Who Have Lost Jobs Access to Discounted, Extended Health Coverage

PROVIDENCE, RI -- Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts has proposed legislation to allow persons who had previously turned down continued health coverage after losing their job because it was too expensive to opt back in for coverage at a lower rate. A provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will allow unemployed Rhode Islanders to receive health coverage at a 65% discount for up to nine months if they lost their job after September 1, 2008. The ARRA gives persons who turned down continued health coverage because of its high cost a new chance to take the coverage at the discounted rate. Roberts’ legislation does the same for the state Extended Benefits law, often called “mini-COBRA.” Without the Roberts legislation, Rhode Islanders who worked at companies that have closed down completely and those who worked at companies with less than 20 employees would be frozen out of this low cost coverage.

“President Obama and the Congress have made great strides in making health care more affordable to people who have lost jobs.” Roberts said. “Out-of-work Rhode Islanders desperately need the benefits of the stimulus package, and must be able to access coverage that is more affordable to get their families through these challenging economic times.”

The proposed legislation would allow any person who would have been eligible for Rhode Island extended benefits because they lost their job on or after September 1, 2008, and who turned down the benefits when they first lost their job, to have a new window within which to enroll in lower-cost coverage. Guidance from the federal government states that Rhode Islanders in this situation would be eligible for the 65% reduction in the cost of health insurance premiums.

“Mini-COBRA” provides extended benefits similar to COBRA coverage for anyone who worked for a company with less than 20 employees or who worked for a company that no longer exists. Neither of these categories is covered under the federal COBRA provision so the state law change must be made to protect these workers.

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