The Economic Stimulus Plan passed by the House yesterday was urgently needed to prevent the economy from slipping into a deeper and more protracted recession. Included in it was a proper focus on stopping a hemorrhaging of jobs in the Healthcare services sector by ensuring healthcare coverage for those laid off. Take Crozer Chester Hospital System (CCHS) in my District, which is consolidating/laying off 400 employee positions because of a decrease in Medicaid funding from states and an inability of laid off workers to fund their 100% COBRA premiums – all meaning a decrease in revenues for hospitals.

As a result, the Stimulus includes provisions to subsidize 65% of COBRA health insurance premiums for one year, and extends COBRA coverage for employees over 55 and for those who have worked for the same employer for 10 years. However, it does not do enough for the immediate needs of all the 2.6 million Americans who lost their jobs and healthcare in 2008, along with 1.2 million children who lost their health insurance as a result of their parents’ unemployment. The bill fails to recognize that many Americans who are not near retirement are quickly exhausting their 18 months of COBRA coverage, and that the unemployment rate for workers 34 years and younger increased by 3.3 percentage points – more than twice as much as the unemployment rate for older workers.

Therefore, my proposal to the stimulus would have extended COBRA coverage for 6 months- regardless of age or length of employment- to all Americans.

While I strongly supported passage of the stimulus, I believe we should have done more to provide immediate health security to all families affected by the ongoing economic crisis. In this way, we will keep health costs down by eliminating the need for emergency care, and allow us to continue long-term efforts to permanently provide affordable, accessible, and quality care to all Americans – while helping ensure our Hospitals are not laying off workers because patients can not pay, or are not coming for needed treatment because of the inability to pay.