COBRA health insurance subsidies ending

Maybe you saw my article in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer about the potential end of the COBRA subsidy for the unemployed. I'd like to clue you into a website that may help you if you get into a jam. The Foundation for Health Coverage for Education has an excellent website that can give guidance about various government-funded health coverage plans, including plans for children.

Just to recap briefly: An unemployed person can purchase health insurance through his former employer, paying 102 percent of the premium. That insurance is known as COBRA coverage. In February, when President Obama signed the stimulus act, it included a provision that the government would pick up 65 percent of the premium for nine months. The first people who got that subsidy when it started on March 1 are now finishing the nine months. That's a big problem, because typical COBRA premiums run around $1,100 a month.  Average monthly unemployment benefits are about $1,300.

There is some action in Washington to extend the subsidy.

In the meantime, don't let your COBRA coverage lapse -- it may be worth it to try to swing the full premium and see if Washington will extend the subsidy. A missed payment moves you out of COBRA world! Meanwhile, you should consider shopping for cheaper alternatives. You can get some help from the foundation's website.