Extending COBRA Should Be a Political No-Brainer

It is good to see that Senate Democrats are acting more progressive less evil less clueless than their House counterparts. They are pushing to include the COBRA subsidies in the tax extender bill after the House dropped them. From Huffington Post:
Unless the law is changed, any worker laid off after June 1 will not be eligible for COBRA subsidies, though workers laid off earlier will continue receiving the subsidy.

Extending COBRA will cost $8 billion, but [Sen. Robert] Casey, who led the last effort to extend benefits, is unfazed. "It's an emergency and when you're in an emergency you use emergency spending," he said in a conference call with progressive media Wednesday. "My amendment will make sure that we have eligibility for COBRA extended through November. To do otherwise would be a terrible mistake for real people, for real families, and a terrible mistake for our economy."

For a second, let’s leave aside the moral issue that we should help people in need. Let's also leave aside the huge hypocrisy of Democrats pounding out the message last year about how important it was to provide more people with health insurance. On a purely political basis, not including the COBRA subsidies is a horrible idea.

Democrats spend a whole year working on a new law to expand health insurance. Yet, a significant number of House Democrats thought it would be a good idea to cut off health insurance for thousands of people by not extending the COBRA subsidies. By the mid-term election, there would probably be more uninsured Americans than before Democrats starting working on health care. It is hard to come up with a better way to undermine the last two years of Democratic control and the health care law.

I doubt any members of Congress will lose a single vote because they voted for a tax extender bill with, say, a $123 billion price tag instead of $115 billion. On the other hand, if thousands of additional Americans lose their health insurance, after Democrats spend a whole year on a bill "guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans," that could really cost members of Congress some votes. It is good to see the Senate Democrats for once are planning on doing the sensible thing, and are not joining the House Blue Dogs’ collective political suicide pact on this issue.

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