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Lt. Gov. Roberts Hails Extension of Health Benefits for Unemployed

Extension included in Defense Appropriation bill adds six months of coverage for the unemployed

PROVIDENCE-- Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts today thanked the Rhode Island federal delegation, President Obama and Congress for extending a federal subsidy that helps unemployed Rhode Islanders keep their health insurance. Through the COBRA premium assistance program, federal stimulus funds are available to help unemployed Rhode Islanders pay for continuing their health insurance coverage. The federal funds cover 65% of health insurance premium costs for laid-off workers. That subsidy was only scheduled to last 9 months, and a large number of program participants saw the cost of their health insurance skyrocket on December 1. The bill, signed into law yesterday, extends the subsidy for 6 months – and it includes persons who lose their job through the end of February 2010.

“Thanks to the leadership of President Obama and the strong support of Rhode Island’s federal delegation, Rhode Island families struggling to pay their COBRA premiums received welcome news this holiday season. The extended premium assistance program, will keep many Rhode Island families healthy by keeping them insured. Every member of the Rhode Island delegation pushed for this measure and their efforts mean so much to Rhode Islanders who are struggling to keep their insurance,” said Roberts.

Without the subsidy, the unemployed would be forced to pay 100% of their health premium, a cost so high that many would have been forced to drop coverage. The extension also reaches back to those for whom the subsidy already expired, allowing them to buy back into the program with no lapse in coverage, as long as their 35% of the premiums are paid within 60 days.

“My office is gathering all of the details on the extension and expansion of the program,” Roberts continued. “People with questions are encouraged to call my office or check my website at for more details.”

The COBRA premium assistance program uses federal stimulus funds to pay 65% of the health insurance premium for workers who were laid-off or whose employer closed. The covered individual pays the rest. In April, Roberts secured passage of state legislation that allowed Rhode Islanders whose employer closed prior to March 1 to get back into the system and take advantage of the federal subsidy. In November, Roberts wrote to the Rhode Island delegation urging them to support an extension of the premium assistance program.

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