Part of Barack Obama's huge stimulus package contains money to help states expand Medicaid (a perpetually broken program) and subsidize 65% of COBRA premiums for recently laid off workers. These measures are an insult to Americans in two important ways.
First, it will extend and promote already broken programs. Medicaid is chronically underfunded and does not properly reimburse doctors. As a result, few doctors accept Medicaid and almost always at a loss. Medicaid should use the same reimbursement plan as Medicare. In fact it is a foolish waste of money to administer two health insurance programs which serve the exact same function.
The COBRA is unusable and not surprisingly an underused program. It "allows" laid off employees to keep their health care at a HIGHER price than their employer paid. You may ask: how can a person who just lost their job afford to pay for COBRA? The answer is they can't. Even if the government subsidizes 65% of the cost of COBRA, the price normally runs $1,000 a month for a family. A parent without income is unlikely to be able to afford even the subsidized $350 a month premium.
More importantly, what the United States' health care system needs is a real fix, not a combination of short-lived and short-sighted band aids which do little to fix our problems. The Democrats control the presidency, the House, and the Senate. They have promised to deliver on universal health care and have the power to do so now. Unlike their stimulus package, which is of questionable value, a universal health care bill would immediately improve the lives of millions of Americans. Instead of attaching rather useless band aids to a boondoggle of a stimulus package, the Democrats should live up to their promise and get a real universal health care bill passed by February.